If only we could recycle how we used to do in the 70s or how they still do abroad. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying our current way of recycling is useless, just very wasteful. I am not convinced in the big scheme of things it is much more than just filling the desire to asuage middle class angst. In Ethical Man on Newsnight, a reporter did everything an individual could possibly do to be environmental friendly - they recycled everything, cut down on energy use, insulated their property, composted, got rid of their car, cycled and even became vegans. The result? - a not very impressive 20% cut in emissions - far short of the 60% we are aiming for for 2050. This can only be achieved through government action.
Remember how we used to do it? I remember growing up where every glass bottle had a sizeable deposit on it and you would take it back to the shop and it would be washed and re-used. This is still how they do it in most of continental Europe. Compare that to the effort it takes to grind up the smashed bottles at bottle banks. I doubt they are re-used for anything other than filling in the tarmac on the roads. The only way we can go back to those days, is if government overide the cheap-skate tactics of companies that will always put the bottom line above the environment. We cannot afford to let that happen, we need a whole raft of environmental laws to encourage companies to recycle not just glass bottles, but repackaging. And on top of that, not use the packaging in the first place. To encourage people to think carefully about what they buy - do they REALLY need it. To cut down on car and energy use - to produce locally. All of these things need government to lay down the law. The individual can only make a dent in what needs to be done.