Most of people believe that material recycling is the true recycling and thermal recycling is a fake. But the conventional material recycling is actually downcycling, whereas thermal recycling by the gasification system can realize more radical recycling. That is to say, what was thought to be the genuine recycling is deceptive, whereas what was thought to be the deceptive recycling is genuine. This recognition leads to reconsideration of the role that the government must play to promote recycling.
Georgescu-Roegen coined the fourth law of thermodynamics according to which matter continuously and irrevocably degrades from an available to an unavailable state in a closed system including the Earth and predicted that we would soon arrive at the state of maximum entropy, material death rather than heat death. He also insisted that recycling could not avoid this material death, because the ideal of complete recycling is based on the illusion of the thermodynamically impossible perpetual motion. But what he called the fourth law of thermodynamics is false. A closed system such as the Earth can reduce material entropy in exchange for increasing thermal entropy, keeping the former low by dumping the latter in outer space. That is to say, a sustainable economy based on recycling is possible, at least theoretically.
Although we intuitively understand what pollution is, its essence is unclear. Without gaining an insight into the concept of pollution, we cannot find a solution to eliminate it. In this article, I first define what pollution is in terms of entropy and then examine the feasibility of material recycling and energy recovery of waste as the solution for waste disposal.