Mineral resources will be discussed in order to provide an
argument for the urgency to continue recycling municipal solid waste, as well
as, a case to prevent this waste becoming ‘waste’ initially. This section lays
the foundations for the need to increase prevention and recycling incentives
within the hierarchy.
Mineral resources are becoming increasingly scarce (Henckens, et al., 2016). Some minerals, such as iron
and aluminium, can be recycled. However,
high entropy materials can be converted to low entropy materials through
recycling, however, require some form of low entropy energy (Ayres, 1999).
These resources are abiotic, and can act both as a stock and
flow in the ecosystem. The total stock of mineral resources is finite which creates
a “physical limit on their contribution to the material growth of the economy”,
as per the First Law of Thermodynamics (Daly and Farley,
2011). These resources are exhaustible resources that cannot renew
themselves (Pearce and Turner, 1990).
Waste, which comprises of relatively useable goods, such as
those that have stopped working or have become out of fashion, is generally
throwaway because it is cheaper than the alternative of recycling (Daly and Farley, 2011). This waste has a higher
entropy than the initial ore it was extracted from: low entropy materials come
in the form of metal ores, whereas higher entropy materials are wastes (Ayres, 1999). Therefore, the need to recycle and
reuse this waste is apparent.
Market failure, i.e. a situation where the market does not
efficient allocation resources, occurs due to the characteristics of mineral
resources. These resources are rival good, because the extraction of a certain
type of metal causes another individual to be unable to extract this metal (Daly and Farley, 2011. However, between generations
these resources are non-rival. This is because metal, for example, can be
recycled and therefore free to be reused.
Although recycling can help the fix the scarcity
of minerals, there needs to be consideration of the increase in energy
resources arising from the recycling process (Martinez-Alier
and Muradian, 2015). Control over
mineral resources waste, i.e. in the form of discarded goods, can be obtained, however,
no control over the laws of entropy (Daly and Farley,
2011). Therefore, policies need to be created to encourage the use of
reusing and recycling this waste. Policy options will be discussed in the later