Recycling Renewables: 'A Black Eye for Green Energy'

CBS News recently aired a surprisingly informative segment on the huge amount of waste produced by the so-called "renewable" energy industry every year. What do you want to bet that few mainstream news viewers have ever heard of this before? Chances are the in-studio host isn't alone when he says, towards the end of the clip that he "had no idea, or even thought about what happens when [solar panels and wind turbines] age out."

The segment ran under the heading "Renewable energy growth brings mounting waste challenge," and quickly made clear that "challenge" is an understatement:

Driven primarily by wind and solar power, renewable energy sources surpassed coal for electricity generation in the United States last year, marking a significant milestone. However, as the industry expands, a new problem emerges: what to do with the mounting waste generated by worn-out solar panels and wind turbine blades. More than 90 percent of discarded solar panels end up in landfills. By 2030, the retired panels are estimated to cover an area equivalent to about 3,000 football fields.

They spoke to the CEO of a company called We Recycle Solar about what he calls "a 'tsunami' of impending solar waste," driven in part by the first few waves of solar panels coming to the end of their 25-30 year lifespan, but also by people replacing their solar panels far too early in response to "advancements in solar panel technology and new government incentives." Some of the panels he's trying to recycle are only three of four years old, which suggests that installing them in the first place was more about keeping up with the latest fashion than about the environment.

And then there's wind turbines. The CBS segment showed a quarry in Missouri filled with "decommissioned wind turbines and nearly 200-foot long blades, chopped into several pieces." They explain that by 2050 the wind industry is expected to "produce more than 47 million tons of blade waste each year." As the camera pans out to show a massive landfill filled with wind turbine detritus which a bulldozer is in the process of burying, they describe it as "a black eye for green energy."

Now, strictly speaking CBS has framed this as a story about the few people who are working away at solving this difficult problem. One woman, for instance, works for a company which shred blades and sell the remains to cement companies to burn as a fuel for their kilns, a replacement for coal. They claim that cuts the kilns' carbon emissions by "nearly 30 percent." Because of course they say that. How else are they going to secure government contracts for chopping them up?

Even so, the report is a tacit admission that there is something wrong with "green" energy, that it is at least as harmful to the environment as the energy sources it seeks to replace. Consequently, it is surprising that it even aired. Because the Left really doesn't like it when their partisans are forced to confront, ahem, inconvenient truths about their ideology. That's why they were so enraged when Michael Moore's documentary, Planet of the Humans, came out three years ago and exposed the scams at the heart of the wind-and-solar industry.

So watch the report, post it on social media, and E-Mail it to your aging hippie uncle and your eco-nut niece. Chances are you won't see its likes again.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

On Tuesdays the garbage is collected in my neighborhood. Local apartment buildings make sure to put out their trash early. So when I walk my dog, we often pass large masses of see-through plastic trash bags, with their neatly sorted plastic contents, washed and bundled to be recycled. My neighbors are quite fastidious, as are their building superintendents. The effort to recycle takes significant time and effort, and no one skimps on it.

Different trucks pick up different types of trash, and take it to different places, naturally. This is expensive. But New York City has mandated recycling, to be environmentally correct, and help save the planet by re-using juice containers, water bottles, and all the rest of the plastic that holds stuff we want. But what if it turned out that this effort is entirely in vain? That it is a charade? A religious ritual to expiate the sin of consuming things in a wealthy, modern society?

It's great to feel great!

As a matter of fact, it does turn out that all this effort and expense amounts to nothing, environmentally. In a widely circulated paper released on October 24th, no less an authority on environmentalism than radical Greenpeace announced that recycling plastic is a total sham, of tiny value. There is no such thing as recycling most of that plastic.

U.S. households generated an estimated 51 million tons of plastic waste in 2021, only 2.4 million tons of which was recycled. The report also finds that no type of plastic packaging in the U.S. meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy (EMF NPE) Initiative. Plastic recycling was estimated to have declined to about 5–6% in 2021, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018. At that time, the U.S. exported millions of tons of plastic waste to China and counted it as recycled even though much of it was burned or dumped.

The report finds that actual plastic recycling is down from a 2014 high of 9.5 percent to a 2021 low of 5-6 percent. Most of that plastic is “recycled” in China, and other poor Asian countries, to which we export it, at great cost. We pay them to recycle it, and we have no idea what they actually do with it. In fact, Greenpeace reports, most of it is dumped, though it is “counted” as recycled. For a lot less taxpayer money we could put it in landfills right here.

This long overdue, honest discussion of just what happens to this expensive garbage notes that the reason for these realities, is that most plastic is simply not recyclable. Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace’s head of plastics, writes, “But the data is clear: practically speaking, most plastic is just not recyclable.” More specifically, the report tells us: “Mechanical and chemical recycling of plastic waste has largely failed and will always fail because plastic waste is: (1) extremely difficult to collect, (2) virtually impossible to sort for recycling, (3) environmentally harmful to reprocess, (4) often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and (5) not economical to recycle.”

One wonders how long it will take the environmental consortium of do-gooders and politicians to fess up to this reality? When will school children cease being indoctrinated about the magic of plastic recycling? When will homeowners be absolved of having to separate their trash?

Get 'em while they're young.

Of course, Greenpeace wants us to switch to some other approach. But the point is, we have been lied to, and snookered into washing throwaway bottles that end up in third world dumps, for going on three decades now. This exercise has literally cost us hundreds of billions of dollars for pure virtue signaling. Knowing this, how seriously can you take the next demand?

The next demand, as it happens, is to give up using plastic. Ms. Ramsden exhorts us, “We are at a decision point on plastic pollution. It is time for corporations to turn off the plastic tap. Instead of continuing to greenwash and mislead the American public, industry should stand on the right side of history this November and support an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty that will finally end the age of plastic by significantly decreasing production and increasing refill and reuse.”

In the world that normal people inhabit, plastic containers and wrapping are valuable because they're so very useful. Being able to grab a plastic bottle of water—and to throw it out when you’ve finished with it—is a major convenience. Having grocery stores wrap vegetables and meat in cellophane allows consumers to see what they’re buying, and to transport and store them without leakage. These are not small benefits.

When New Yorkers were forced to give up plastic bags for paper or cloth at stores, the cost was steep. Both paper and cloth, it turns out, are more expensive to manufacture, and leave a larger “carbon footprint,” than the thin plastic formerly in use. Cloth bags, which are theoretically reusable, become vectors for bacteria because no one ever washes them. The plastic bottles that our drugstore items come in—what will replace that? Glass? For better or worse, we depend on plastic for many things.

Meanwhile, we await the next round of truth telling from enviros, about what else they’re making us do that is meaningless. Covid masks, anyone? 

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Double-Faulting

Despite always professing to love tennis, we never can seem to pull Judith (mummy) away from chatting up friends at Wimbledon and this year was no different.  Having commandeered  the best table at the Sipsmith Bar, and already holding court… what was the use of trying? As it turns out, exactly no use whatsoever, but I did try…

Oh is that your Jennifer?’ I overheard, and immediately retraced my steps for a swift exit. Sipsmith’s Strawberry Smash had replaced Pimm’s as this year’s favourite and the additional gin was clearly having an effect. Conversations were slightly louder and nobody was shy about the topic du jour: Boris! I had wanted to take Judith to see my client here at Wimbledon but she knew where to find us if/when she was so inclined.

‘Did you find her?’ Daddy asked. I just rolled my eyes and kept walking. We were going to have to walk all the way up and around to get back to the suites. Evian (the VIP Suite) was my client and we had been recertified carbon neutral for the second year running. I was quite eager to get there but we’d have to pass up about half a dozen G&T’s before that.

‘Stop here?’ I asked Daddy at about the fourth Sipsmith Goose, and he agreed. This year, ‘eco-conscious fashion’ had been my bright idea but I was wearing something new and didn’t want to pull a Boris and just say whatever suited me.  I chose a Lemon Drizzle G&T and Daddy tried the Sipspresso while all around us—the buzz of Carrie and Boris.

What have I done?

‘Are you sad to see him go?’ I asked.

‘Sad??.’ Daddy replied. ‘I’m a Tory if I need remind you but the minute he hooked up with that woman he stopped being a conservative’.

‘Carrie, you mean?’ 

‘Of course Carrie! Saboteur-in-chief, Carrie, but her departure is a loss for YOU I am sure!  You’ve never had someone pouring green into the Prime Minister’s ear twenty-four hours a day. It was almost the environmental movement’s own Cambridge Five.’   

‘Daddy! It wasn’t as bad as all that.’ 

‘No, you’re right. In her case the Americans never caught on, and perhaps those two can move in with the Sussexes, where they can luxuriate in 18,000 square feet of air-cooled comfort and think up ways to make the little man suffer.’

‘Point, taken.’ I said. I didn’t dare defend this as my own California abode had been uninhabited by me since Los Angeles had become unlivable. I always had my own issues with Carrie, who had been trying to push-in since the beginning of time. Lack of talent or skill had never held her back. Not even the time she submitted a photo of herself in a failed attempt to become ‘the sexiest girl next door’ as a ‘High Street Honey’. Years later she used the European data protection law to de-list certain searches relating to her name. But according to her then-boyfriend, ‘she’d always been an attention-seeker’ and ‘It certainly wasn’t a cardigan and pearls. They were relatively explicit photos e.g. bikini and also topless ones.’

For my part, I wanted her not to bring shame to the green movement as a whole, which proved too tall an order. She was ruthless, and no wonder she was being compared to Elena Ceaușescu. There was #partygate, #nannygate, Cash For Cushions, and while everyone focused on things like the £840-a-roll gold wallpaper, £200,000 furnishings, and a £538 gold iPad (bought with public funds), I am still holding onto Carrie’s paid six-months working as maternity cover as Sajid Javid’s adviser. Everyone forgets about this.

Kim Philby (lower right) had nothing on Carrie.

Daddy signalled me to be quiet to hear the nearby chatter… they were discussing Carrie’s ‘unprecedented influence’ adding that her 'unelected and unaccountable role in government is not only unconstitutional but dangerous to British democracy'.  

It’s certainly much worse than lying about the birthday party that was clearly not ‘just wine and cheese’, but I think that’s the thing Britain cannot forgive.  Violating the rules in the very room where the rules are made, is how Boris’ lies became the top story, and how we got to #CarrieAntoinette.    

We walked the rest of the distance to the VIP Suite and I introduced my father to the president of Evian who immediately thrust a can of our new Sparkling Evian into his hand. ‘Goodness, thank you’, he replied. I knew he wanted to ask is that what suffices for a handshake these days, and I signalled my silent thanks for his not saying anything.

‘Aluminium…excellent choice’.  Daddy said, indicating the can. 

‘Do you know recycling, Mr. Kennedy?' Etienne asked. Oh god. Please, no! PLEASE do not say the words ‘scientist’ or ‘geophysical engineer’ or ‘petroleum’...

‘Well I do, actually,’ he began, ‘our Jennifer just keeps us on our toes in that regard… all of England actually, but I needn’t tell you that’. WHEW!

‘Is there a Mrs…’

‘INDEED!’ I interrupted. ‘And I cannot tell you how proud she is of our Carbon Trust recertification… so really, bravo us!’ I said, passing it off with a nervous giggle. I then took credit for our eco-wardrobe push as well, which prompted a question about my own dress. UGH!  

‘This old thing? I said, and immediately put the focus back on Daddy—‘If I might… my father has been wearing this blazer to Wimbledon since as far back as I can remember, and isn’t that just enough on the Kennedy family history!’ I exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear and leading Daddy away.

Etienne, however, followed: ‘Jenny…’ he said grabbing my arm just a little too firmly, ‘YOU are presenting the Evian prize in place of Carrie Johnson!’ His voice cracked, ‘promise me you're wearing something sustainable!’

‘I promise!’ I said, still feeling the heat of his too-strong grip on my arm. But he just stood there sweating in his poly-blend jacket I knew he’d bought in hopes of its looking retro.

Ladies they talk about: Camilla and Carrie.

‘Listen!’, I said, lowering my voice and shaking his hand off. ‘I’ve had just about enough of that Mata Hari. And don’t look so shocked, you should be glad this whole #johnsongate blew up before she became the public face of Evian. And for the record, YES ,this dress is arguably new. I bought it well before Covid and have had no place to wear it until now. It is, however, custom-made—yes CUSTOM MADE just for me, right here in jolly old England. But at the very least no ten-year-old Chinese girl went blind hand-smocking the top. So call it what you will but I will stack my deeds, and my clothes, side-by-side with those of Miss Shack-up Symonds, turned terror in chief, any day of the week!’  

He was silent and shocked. Another fool mesmerised by the not-so-High Street Honey.

Just then I heard the unmistakable lilt of Judith’s voice. ‘Oh good. Here’s my mother.’ I said motioning. ‘If you’ve any concerns… boy will she sort you out.’

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Scarfing

I’m not really sure who Hermés is marketing to if not me. I mean not only do I buy a fair amount of new things, I’m forever bringing new life to Judith's (mummy’s) vintage pieces. Honestly, they should fête me. But instead, what I get is attitude. And with all this Covid madness I’m needing more scarves as masks, not less. And dry cleaning is taking seven times longer than it has my whole life.

Ok, maybe I can’t remember back as far as my whole life but I think you get the picture. Their website was extremely limited…nearly everything was either a jungle theme, or Maori, or African, or the Amazon, or Inuit or some civilisation that clearly doesn’t shop on Bond Street. And everything blue??? Ugh! So I popped into Harrod’s because—leave it to the shop that started by selling us tea to still know what we want today.

And I was right, everything was so much more suited to what anyone would wear but with the addition of so many stupid small sizes, I had to keep asking --is this one the real scarf size or the Barbie size? And then I had a flashback to the snipey clerk in the states who had admonished me by saying that a $2,000 Collier bracelet was “only fashion jewellery,” and I shouldn’t take so much time deciding. Clearly Hermés clerks are rather well compensated.  But no chance I’d have a similar problem here, the experience of shopping at Harrods is really... an experience.  And for a moment I didn’t miss my life in Los Angeles at all.

Seitan -- it's what's for dinner!

Soon however, I was starting to go mad by so many patterns and colours and I needed a cup of tea to set me right so I popped out, promising to return. And I meant to—really I did, but two glasses of bubbly later I still couldn’t understand why, with four dozen instruction books over the years on how to tie any scarf —we needed smaller sizes. Oh how I wished Judith were here. She’d have picked out the best of the lot and we’d be eating yummy roast beef…or  222 Vegan if I had the patience to re-explain seitan strips and cashew cream.

I pulled out my phone and googled silk’s impact on the environment… so much fresh water used…energy for air-conditioning and humidity control of the farms, hot air to dry the cocoons and, maybe even coal-fuelled factories. None of this had been depicted in any size. Maybe it was environmental responsibility that accounted for the loss of silken inches? One more search led me to Ferragamo, who was making a silk-like fibre from oranges—not even orange wood, but used oranges! This I had to see. A few paragraphs later l learned it was actually citrus by-products, so my leftover breakfast squeeze could have avoided the compost and made its way to a fabulous scarf!

Amazing what they can do with fruit these days.

I doubled back over to Bond Street, this time to Ferragamo. The whole store smelled like a delicious new leather snaffle bridle, but it was citrus I was after. Pretty much no one in the store knew what I was talking about until I thrust my phone forward showing them the WWD piece detailing “the contemporary way to construct an ethical lifestyle”, that “everything was possible with the fashion world now having joined the sustainability train”, and the “commitment to bringing sustainable practices to the fashion industry set the example for waste reduction and organic repurposing”. Surely all this hadn’t been lost on them, but apparently their commitment had ended—with one collection.

I bought the pink peony scarf and a viva slingback in bone. It was getting late and I didn’t feel like carrying too many packages so I made my way back to St John’s Wood just in time to find daddy and Judith setting up for cocktails. I had been craving an orange for some reason and settled for a Tesco orange juice with bits.

I had wanted to complain to them about my day—to tell them that Hermés had gone all indigenous on me, that the five different sizes were dizzying, and that silk itself was… hmm, better forget the sad-planet bit as I’d bought one anyway. And now that I thought about it—champagne, Harrod's, Bond Street and a large expenditure on accessories didn’t seem likely to engender much sympathy, nor would including the misleading WWD article.

“Remind me where it is that you live in California?” Father asked. He knew very well where I lived, but I decided best not to huff.

“Sherman Oaks… nearly Beverly Hills as you may recall”, I said.

“Yes, of course. Sherman Oaks, I had just been reading about fire season out there”.

“Fire… SEASON??” I asked, knowing I wasn’t up for the banter.

“Never mind that”, he said, “I was really just referring to black-out season, which seemingly always coincides with fire season”. He was gaining, just as Judith asked to see what I’d bought.

“I don’t know that it’s fair to say… always coincides", I ventured, knowing I’d landed a blow, he was forever preaching the ills of superlatives.

“Well in this case, I would say it is indeed fair, millions of acres of land burning, millions of homes without power… and both sharing the same catalyst, we can’t argue they aren’t related”, he went on.

Ah, how little he knew his own daughter. Certainly I could argue, but not when I was crashing from the sugar of the orange juice. Or the big lunch. Or both. And I knew he was correct. Failure to harvest dead trees had provided the fuel for the fires, and the money spent fighting fires was now not available to tuck the power lines underground, so yes, he was right, and yes he would make me admit this was another failed green policy so I just smiled and said:

“We can all agree the larger season is summer, yes?”

“Indeed” was his only reply.

Indeed. It was almost a victory lap.

They were heading out for a curry and invited me but I said I’d catch up on my emails and anyway the roast beef was a generous portion.

They neither toil  but they sure do spin.

I headed up to my childhood room and flopped on the bed with my laptop. Another web search brought up silk’s praises… its byproducts are integrated back into the local ecosystem, the mulberry fruits are eaten, the wood is used for timber and fuel, the foliage fed to cattle, the extra waste used as fertiliser; and Sericin—recovered from wastewater could be added to food, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.

Net-net, silk is virtually a zero-waste textile. I’d have to go back to hating cotton. And cheeky clerks.