In modern Europe, engineers tried to invent perpetual motion machines, only to fail. Perpetual motion machines are imaginary machines that eternally work without being supplied with any fuel once they are set up. Invention of perpetual motion machines is modern alchemy.
1. An illusion of the zero-emission recycling
Although two principles of thermodynamics prove it not technically but theoretically impossible to make perpetual motion machines, we still find many people professing to succeed in inventing perpetual motion machines.
Perpetual motion machines have two kinds corresponding to two principles of thermodynamics.
1. The first kind of perpetual motion machines is against the principle of energy conservation. The Fast Breeder Reactor is represented as the first kind of perpetual motion machines that reproduces more fuel by consuming it.
2. The second kind of perpetual motion machines is against the principle of maximum entropy. The zero-emission recycling is represented as the second kind of perpetual motion machines that produces no waste and does not pollute the environment.
This myth of recycling is based on the misapprehension that resources and waste are things. Resources are not things but a certain state of things (low entropy), and our economical behaviors, both production and consumption, are nothing but to take out the resource value of things and increase their entropy. It is this increase in entropy that we call waste.
Recycling is the same process as production in that the more increase in entropy of the environment must compensate for the decrease in entropy of products. The recycling emits exhaust heat and pollutes the environment.
2. What kind of recycling is desirable?
Those who take resources for things consider it wasteful to burn garbage to ashes to generate electricity, though it is called thermal waste recycle and a way to consume resources efficiently. The material waste recycling is not always superior to the thermal waste recycling. You must calculate energy income and outgo, and deciding which is more efficient on each case.
Although recycling can make consumption of resources more efficient, if performed by the right method, but all the same, recycling destroys the environment. Reuse is more desirable than recycling, because it increases less entropy. But long or short, any goods have a limited life. The most radical solution is to reduce the amount of production and consumption.
3. How to solve the environment problems
There are three ways to reduce entropy: (1) to make production and consumption more efficient, (2) to lower our living standard, (3) to reduce population.
The first way including recycling and reuse depends on technological innovation and improvement in economic systems. This option seems the best of three but the fact is that this progress only allows further growth in production and consumption. The second way is the least popular and nobody would accept it unless threatened by terrorism. The third way is the most realizable and effective. Although a decrease in the birthrate is progressing among advanced countries, this tendency must be extended to developing countries.
For that purpose, it is important to establish the same compulsory education systems in developing countries as those in advanced countries and burden parents with educational costs in order to prevent them from bearing many children. This investment to education will decrease quantity of human economy but increase its quantity.
The priority of three R’s is first Reduce, second Reuse and third Recycle. If we are addicted only to recycling without tackling the first two, we cannot prevent destruction of the environment and exhaustion of resources.