More from the Recycling Commissar

Remember Mark Hall of, who was after Nikolai Yezhov’s old job? He’s spamming me again. Let’s take a look.

Calls to government to force Amazon and retailers to take back your packaging

Last week it was re-education camps and indoctrination of schoolkids. This week it’s deploying government force against private companies. Next week he’ll be extolling the virtues of barbed wire and watchtowers.

Popular mail order companies like Amazon and Asos should take back their packaging for recycling and ethical disposal in a money-saving move that could result in thousands of tonnes of waste being recycled.

If it was money-saving they’d already be doing it, wouldn’t they?

In the same way that grocery delivery services such as Ocado take back their own (and any other supermarkets’) plastic bags, couriers should ask if there is any mail order cardboard or plastic packing that needs to go back to the depot, a national waste and recycling company says.

According to, this is likely to boost recycling rates all over the country, and encourage householders and companies to think greener. And it would be great for Amazon’s sometimes-battered reputation, too.

Among whom is Amazon’s reputation battered? Not the customers: they seem to love it. And if not them, who cares what everyone else thinks?

“If Ocado can take back bags, then Amazon should take back boxes and Asos take back packaging,” Business Waste spokesperson Mark Hall says.

Presumably Dulux should take back empty paint tins, Castrol empty oil drums, and McDonald’s empty burger cartons.

“It might even encourage ethical consumers to shop with them, and that would be good for business.”

However has Amazon managed so far without the sagely business advice from people running garbage bins out of North Yorkshire? My guess is in their ignorance they have decided against costly side-operations irrelevant to their core business and concentrated instead on keeping their overheads as low as possible.

Latest government figures show that Britain throws away 4.7 million tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging every year, and only 3.4 million of this is recycled. While this is above EU target rates, a missing 1.3 million tonnes is still lost to the system, Business Waste says.

So cardboard can be recycled an infinite number of times, can it? From what I can tell most cardboard packaging is already recycled from higher-grade paper, and I very much doubt this recycled packaging can be further recycled too many times. In other words, there will always be wastage. Perhaps 1.3m tonnes is too high, but only an idiot would think this is “lost” to the system.

The same figures show that only a third of the 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging discarded every year is recycled. Again, this is above generous European targets, but still far short of what can be achieved.

At what cost? Apparently it doesn’t matter.

“It’s hard to imagine 1.3 million tonnes of anything,” Hall says,

I think this says more about Mr Hall’s brain capacity than it does Britain’s recycling efforts.

“But that amount of paper and cardboard would probably reach most of the way to the moon, if not further.”

The moon is about 385,000 kilometres away. The density of cardboard is about 0.7 tonnes per metre cubed. 1.3m tonnes of cardboard therefore has a volume of about 1.9m cubic metres. If this were to stretch to the moon it would need to be stacked in a square of 0.005 metres square, which is 7cm on each side. This doesn’t seem like the best analogy.

Here’s what suggests:

All couriers should ask if there’s “Anything to go back?” when making a delivery. Customers can hand over any mail order packaging, from any source.

Right, so couriers are expected to collect materials of unknown size, type, and quantity when making deliveries. What could possibly be wrong with this idea?

Customers expecting a delivery can leave old card and plastic packaging out to be collected

Leave out? Where? In the road?

Recycled card and plastic is sorted straight from the returning courier’s van into appropriate bins at the depot

Sorted by whom? The van driver? I bet he’s chuffed with his new role. And it may come as a surprise to the geniuses at but Amazon uses third party couriers such as Royal Mail and DHL. Are postmen now going to be lugging discarded packaging around behind them as they go about their business of delivering things? Is DHL going to be driving about with a van full of somebody else’s packaging?

Bins are emptied or collected by a commercial waste and recycling company

Such as yourselves, of course.

These bins, while strictly commercial waste, should be exempted from landfill tax bills as they have been collected from domestic sources with the intent to recycle.

Sorry? I assumed this material would be exempt from landfill tax because it is going to be recycled, not dumped in landfill. Did you read this press release before spamming me with it?

This scheme should apply to online retailers such as Amazon, as well as mail order clothing outlets such as Asos which use courier services

And hence your own company can tap into Amazon’s revenue streams. Very clever.

“We see a large and enthusiastic take-up for such a system,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall,

If there is a large and enthusiastic uptake then the problem is already solved, isn’t it?

“and it should push all mail order companies into considering more environmentally friendly packaging in the future.”

Which they did years ago anyway, without the input from from people running garbage bins out of North Yorkshire. Almost all Amazon’s packaging is made from recycled materials these days. applauds the efforts of online mail order giants Amazon for their efforts in reducing excess packaging, but they are still occasionally guilty of sending tiny items in huge boxes padded out with rolls of brown paper.

Yes, because the packaging is done robotically using standard box sizes.

“We’d say they’re getting it right nine times out of ten,” says Hall, “But we’re still occasionally getting printer ink cartridges in boxes the size of a small car.”

If only Amazon hired glorified binmen from North Yorkshire to advise them on how best to run a logistics operation.

With the onus on the vendors to accept returned packaging, it would encourage them use much less of it, says.

Why would vendors be using more packaging than necessary? Don’t you think they’ve already thought of this and reached an optimum solution without the input of rent-seeking binmen?

“The transport network is already in place, through the courier companies” says Hall.

I’m sure they’re delighted to know that you’ve commandeered their fleets for your own hare-brained ideas.

“It just takes a brave step in the right direction to make this work.”

Getting the government to force through changes that result in staggeringly inefficient logistics, inconvenience, and higher prices for customers in order to increase the revenues of Mr Hall’s company. Why yes, how very brave.


14 thoughts on “More from the Recycling Commissar

  1. So, if I understand it correctly, what they are proposing is that those who buy online send their stuff back via the courier system and those that don’t still have to use the council binmen. As the council won’t know from one minute to the next who will be doing what and from where they will have to continue with the usual collections, so no cost savings to be made anywhere, in fact just a cost increase to those buying online.

    I used to despair at these people, now I just despair.

    We need to bring back the stocks or possibly Bedlam so we can laugh at them, perhaps then they’ll start to think.

  2. Excellent fisk, sir. You does a good fisk.

    I note the part that simply says “couriers should ask” and would like to point out that the curse of the modern world (perhaps among other curses) is the simple word ‘should.’

    You should let the media dictate policies, you should let refugees live in your house, you should do all this to help the environment, you should vote for the party that cares more about those who have never paid into the system than those mugs who coughed up without complaint, you really should stop thinking for yourself.

    Should, it is often said, is shitty.

    Oh yes, and BiND is right: it will be great having council lorries running round clogging the road and using fuel wondering if they will find a full bin on their travels today.

  3. I wrap the empty boxes in chrissie paper and pile them up as props under the school Christmas tree. I’m doing my part.

  4. “If it was money-saving they’d already be doing it, wouldn’t they?”

    Maybe, but if it was loss making they certainly shouldn’t be doing it or should stop doing it immediately.

    Except that George Bernard Shaw noted: “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

    £450m lost over failed green power programme
    Minister who backed plan now works in sector

  5. How exactly would the courier take away work? I mean, forget the economics and the landfill tax, but practically?

    Yodel-monkey knocks at my door with a box from Amazon- does he wait while I unpack it? Does he drop it off at the tip for me? What if I’m not in? Does he come back tomorrow? What if it’s a gift for someone? Does he pop back after the wife’s birthday? What if I need to return the item? Does he bring me a box back to do so? If so, is it a new box?

    I’m used to idiots telling me what i should do- lord knows, I did go to school- but at least your average idiot has spent some time thinking about the implications of what happens if I say ‘yes’.

  6. Yodel-monkey knocks at my door with a box from Amazon- does he wait while I unpack it?

    No, I think the idea – if we charitably call it that – is that the courier collects packaging from previous deliveries. So Yodel-monkey knocks on the door with a box from Amazon containing a cork screw and, in the words of the imbecile who dreamed this up, asks ““Anything to go back?” And you say, “Hell yeah, I had a washing machine delivered yesterday, here’s a tonne of cardboard and polystyrene.” Which he then takes away on his motorbike.

  7. @Tim,

    Ah, so I get the pleasure of storing all this shit for other people?

    Didn’t we also have something recently about how recycling is spoilt by a few people who (unaccountably) have other things to do than rinse out ins, or scrabble through the Local Authority’s website to discover whether this particular brand of Yoghurt pot is suitable for the big green bin, the big black bin or the small blue one?

    Isn’t this the same problem? Let’s get the proles to do the sort and sift for us? And if they don’t do it we’ll be *very very angry*.

    (and the whole system will fall over)

  8. Surely we’re close to reaching Peak Idiocy with this clown?

    Indeed, but he is to a blogger what cans of cheap tuna are to a student.

  9. So, what? I’m going to buy a box to ship the used boxes back in?

    Will I then be required to take back the box I shipped the waste in so I can dispose of it?

    Will Amazon then be required to take *that* box back?

    Or is the FedEx guy supposed to wait for me to open the box immediately and then fill his truck up with waste to be shipped back?

    And if so, why wouldn’t it be easier for FedEx to bear the direct responsibility for this? They’ll already have it bagged up – no point in mailing it back to Amazon just to have it thrown in the bin behind the warehouse.

  10. I guess that would also require the delivery person to only drop off packages when there’s someone there to receive them.

    So that’s also a whole day someone’s going to waste waiting for the truck to arrive instead of the package being left at the door.

  11. Shame on you all. I recycle ALL my plastic and cardboard packaging waste.
    Into the atmosphere.

  12. While Amazon is fine if the goods are fine, their return of malfunctioning goods is appalling. They make the customer pay for courier or postage and it’s a job recovering that.

  13. While Amazon is fine if the goods are fine, their return of malfunctioning goods is appalling. They make the customer pay for courier or postage and it’s a job recovering that.

    I’m surprised at that: I had to send back a damaged item from France and they gave me a standard 10 Euros to do so. When I pointed out the cheapest I could do it was for 20 Euros, they coughed up the extra.

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