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Why the Trash You Sort Isn't Getting Recycled
http://www.americanoutlook.org ^ | December 29, 2003 | Dennis T. Avery

Posted on 12/29/2003 10:07:20 AM PST by stylin_geek

My neighbors are unhappy to learn that the trash they’ve carefully sorted for years into brown bottles, green bottles, cans, and paper is being dumped back into one pile at the local landfill. Except for aluminum cans, no one wants the sorted trash items. Is this bad for the environment?

Probably not. I checked with Dr. Daniel Benjamin of Clemson University (and the PERC Center for Free Market Environmentalism) and he says: First, don’t worry that the trash going into our landfills will take over too much of the land area. People today are actually throwing away less trash (in both volume and tonnage) than in previous, less-affluent generations. Dr. Benjamin says the average U.S. household today generates one-third less trash than the average family in Mexico!

How can this be?

In significant part, it’s because we throw away less food, thanks to commercial processing and packaging.

When chickens, for example, are commercially processed, the beaks, claws, and innards are turned into pet food instead of going into the kitchen garbage can. Commercial processing and packaging of 1,000 chickens adds about 17 pounds of paper and plastic wrap—but turns (recycles) about 2,000 pounds of chicken by-products into useful purposes. Ditto for such things as the peelings from frozen French fries and the rinds from making orange juice. (The “factory” potato and citrus peels go to feed livestock.)

Millions of additional tons of organic waste go down the garbage disposals and so on to waste treatment plants, instead of drawing flies at the landfill.

Companies have also turned to lighter-weight packages (mainly to cut transport costs) and the total weight of the packages entering landfills, says Dr. Benjamin, has fallen by 40 percent. Plastic two-liter soft drink bottles weigh 30 percent less than the old glass bottles. Plastic bags weight 70 percent less than paper. Even aluminum beverage cans now weigh 40 percent less.

Thirty years ago we were told that we were running out of landfill space. New York City wasn’t able to dump its garbage at sea any more, and it got piled up on Staten Island. What happened?

A new rule on ocean dumping and a temporary shortage of landfills with permits basically caused a bottleneck. New York initially started exporting its trash by rail. (Some if it came to Virginia, where we had lots of rural gullies to fill, and were very cheerful about the dumping fees.)

Today, the United States has 25 percent more landfill space permitted than we had 25 years ago. And all the trash we’re expected to dump in the next 100 years would fit into a landfill about 10 miles square.

There are no plans for one centralized national dump, of course, because it’s more advantageous for most communities to save the transportation costs, and turn their completed landfills into parks and tennis courts within their own borders.

What about pollution leaking from the landfills? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), never likely to minimize a pollution risk, says leakage from modern America’s landfills can be expected to cause one cancer-related death over the next 50 years. In other words, the danger is too low to be measured. Today’s landfills are sited away from groundwater sources; built on a foundation of several feet of dense clay; the foundation is covered with thick plastic liners, and the liners are then covered with several feet of sand or gravel. Any leachate is drained out via collection pipes and sent to the municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Won’t we be losing irreplaceable resources if we landfill instead of recycling? Too often, recycling proponents focused on the aluminum or newspaper being recycled, and forgot about the fuel, manpower and other resources it took to turn the trash into something useful. And with new technology, resources such as copper and wood have declined in value.

Franklin Associates, which consults for EPA, says extensive recycling is 35 percent more expensive than conventional disposal, and curbside recycling is 55 percent more expensive. In other words, recycling takes more resources than landfilling.

Why did people promote recycling so heavily in the first place? Lots of people probably misunderstood the costs and benefits. It’s also true that eco-activists urgently wanted everybody to feel a direct stake in saving the planet. Telling us all to recycle was their way to make us feel eco-involved.

Today, however, when environmental concern is near-universal and conservation techniques are far better, we don’t need “phony” recycling campaigns.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: environment; environmental; environmentalism; recycle; recycled; recycling
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To: visagoth
Whoo Hoo! The guy who dreamt that up gets an A+ for sales and marketing!
21 posted on 12/29/2003 10:21:04 AM PST by Great_Dame
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To: stylin_geek
My question being, if you are placing the stuff in plastic bags, who is opening up your bags of garbage and going through them?

I am putting them in the bin provided by Waste Management and the township I live in. They just want everything in the bins to be loose and scrubbed before they have to touch it with gloves to throw it in the truck. It's a dainty little business, I guess.

22 posted on 12/29/2003 10:22:20 AM PST by Glenn (What were you thinking, Al?)
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To: Glenn
They were kind enough to mail a pamphlet describing exactly what I should be doing with my soup cans and soda bottles (as if I have the time or inclination to scrape the damn wrappers off the soup cans, wash out the soda bottles, remove the plastic wrapper, lid and ring from the bottle...and on and on and on).
In my municipality I pay $10 a month to have the trash picked up, so I'll be clintoned if I am going to pre-process the modell for them.

I also happen to know how they treated the at-one-time second largest aluminum recycling site in North America (my previous employer) when it was located there. Another reason not to cooperate.

Where paper is concerned, most paper comes from trees which are grown as a crop. Therefore, "saving trees" by using it sparingly or recycling it is like "saving corn plants" by not eating corn....or recycling it from.....never mind.

-Eric

23 posted on 12/29/2003 10:23:47 AM PST by E Rocc
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To: stylin_geek
And while I'm on this rant, am I the only person who has noticed the spew of diesel, leak of oils, and roar of engine out of these trucks?
24 posted on 12/29/2003 10:24:10 AM PST by Glenn (What were you thinking, Al?)
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To: PJ-Comix
New York City wasn’t able to dump its garbage at sea any more, and it got piled up on Staten Island. What happened?

Staten Island doubled in size???

It would have, except for the fact that a big proportion of the waste produced in NYC is converted into laws, regulations, or politicians.

-Eric

25 posted on 12/29/2003 10:25:49 AM PST by E Rocc
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To: stylin_geek
Plastic two-liter soft drink bottles weigh 30 percent less than the old glass bottles. Plastic bags weight 70 percent less than paper.

But glass was sterilized and reused umpteen times. Then somebody got the bright idea to dump the costs on the public and use "disposeable" plastic bottles, which takes years, if ever, to deteriorate. Note that the shift to plastic didn't equal a drop in price.

Same with paper bags - they rotted after a while. They gave jobs to people who logged the scrub pine and the forest was renewable. Now we suck up oil to make these bags, which like the above, never decay. (I still make a point to ask for paper in the stores, especially now that they have handles, which was the only "improvement" I found in plastic.)

The article sounds like a promo for the "use once and throw it away" crowd. That being said, I never could see the sort-your-garbage routine as it was pretty obvious that it was neither environmentally friendly or cost effective and was merely another duck-the-consequences gambit by the corporations.

26 posted on 12/29/2003 10:28:36 AM PST by Oatka
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To: Ff--150
AND these phony recycling programs has us paying $2.00+ a month for our planet! Sheech!!

Bingo! Remember: When something worth something people pay you, you don't pay them, i.e. you don't pay someone to take your 2002 Dodge Ram 2500, they pay you, but you do pay someone to haul away your old washing machine that just went kaput.

27 posted on 12/29/2003 10:31:29 AM PST by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: Glenn
Good point about the trucks. Thanks for the clarification about the daintily scrubbed garbage people and how they prefer to handle your "recyclables."
28 posted on 12/29/2003 10:31:44 AM PST by stylin_geek (Koffi: 0, G.W. Bush: (I lost count)
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To: stylin_geek
In the old days, a pile of garbage at the dump would be set afire, and everything combustible would be burned away, while the oxidation of the metals would be well-begun. Then, the non-combustible metals (which will eventually degrade) were buried. Glass was sent back to glass factories as early as the 1920's to be recycled again and again, into insulation, fabrics, and more glass items, and aluminum, copper and brass were recycled. Large items of iron or steel were shipped back to steel mills.
29 posted on 12/29/2003 10:32:19 AM PST by redhead (Les Franšais sont des singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage.)
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To: stylin_geek
My neighbors are unhappy to learn that the trash they’ve carefully sorted for years into brown bottles, green bottles, cans, and paper is being dumped back into one pile at the local landfill.

They are just figuring this out??

The Recycling guys have been doing this around my way for years ... and we pay extra trash fees for this too

I have to admit the funniest .. well actually the stupidest recycling story I've heard, was a few years ago when a street near me was repaved using recycled glass

Everyone kept getting flat tires .. so then the local township had to do a study to find out why so many flat tires were occurring on the street made from recycled glass

30 posted on 12/29/2003 10:32:40 AM PST by Mo1 (House Work, If you do it right , will kill you!)
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To: PJ-Comix
LOL!! Ah, PJ, you're a panic!
31 posted on 12/29/2003 10:32:49 AM PST by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: xsrdx
Same here - trash goes in the trash. Let some tree-hugger sort it out. And the county provides us with nice blue recycle bins that are great for storing things behind the shed!
32 posted on 12/29/2003 10:33:19 AM PST by meowmeow
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To: stylin_geek
"Lots of people probably misunderstood the cost and benifits."


Just like the elctric car folks thinking the recharging of their batteries comes from sources that do not pollute.
33 posted on 12/29/2003 10:34:06 AM PST by Blue Collar Christian (Part of the Vast Right Wing Apparatus since Ford lost. ><BCC>)
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To: Ff--150
If there is no intention of recycling, then that really should be fraud or false advertising.

Where are the class action lawyers when you need them.

34 posted on 12/29/2003 10:34:20 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: stylin_geek
I have been saying this for years based on earlier articles and books on the subject. But people just do not want to hear it.
35 posted on 12/29/2003 10:38:49 AM PST by Protagoras (When they asked me what I thought of freedom in America,,, I said I thought it would be a good idea.)
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To: meowmeow
It is cost effective for me to sort. I pay $2.00 per can for garbage to be hauled away. Recyclables are free.
36 posted on 12/29/2003 10:39:44 AM PST by KEVLAR
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To: visagoth
Curious, I asked, then why does your company provide recycling services if you are not recycling stuff? His answer: "We make more money on 'recycling' service that regular trash service."

YEP .. it's all about the money

Many Many years ago .. my county built a trash to steam plant ... over the years it continues to still lose money and we the taxpayers are stuck paying MILLIONS for the stupid thing

37 posted on 12/29/2003 10:40:21 AM PST by Mo1 (House Work, If you do it right , will kill you!)
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To: Blue Collar Christian
Just like the elctric car folks thinking the recharging of their batteries comes from sources that do not pollute.

I'd be interested to know what the net effect is. I know I've read it but I can't remember the answer. It might also be pointed out that location of the pollution and how it is released are conciderations.

38 posted on 12/29/2003 10:42:57 AM PST by Protagoras (When they asked me what I thought of freedom in America,,, I said I thought it would be a good idea.)
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To: redhead
When my parents were kids, recycling went something like this: Dig the vegetables. Cook and eat the edible parts. Feed the other stuff (peelings, roots, tops, etc.) to pigs, goats and cows and reap the rewards. If you had something in a glass container, the container would either be reused indefinitely, or broken and buried away from the house. Steel cans and tin items were reused over and over. when they finally outlived their usefulness, they were flattened and used to patch holes in outhose walls or burned repeatedly until they disintegrated to the point where the barrel of ashes (everybody used a 55-gallon drum to burn trash) was taken to the garden and spread on the soil. Occasionally, a ketchup bottle or a little blue Vicks jar was saved for a flower vase. Even though rubbish was generated (although in a much smaller way) recycling was being utilized on a very local and personal basis for many years.
39 posted on 12/29/2003 10:43:47 AM PST by redhead (Les Franšais sont des singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage.)
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To: visagoth
We are provided a separate, large container for all recyclables: paper, plastic, glass all goes into the same bin. I wash out the food cans, jars, etc. so as to not attract local critters. As I am using the water to wash out the cans, I always wonder which has more of an effect on the environment: the little bit of metal or glass that I am contributing to the recycling effort, or the little bit of water used for washing it out that would otherwise not be used.

The trash company says I don't have to wash out the individual items, but that I should keep the bin itself clean. Brilliant. So, which takes more water: rinsing out individual cans and bottles, or scrubbing out a large trash bin with ripened goo and encrusted gook?

Actually, tonight we're just saying to hell with it and will burn the Christmas paper, boxes, etc. in the patio fire pit. It won't all fit into the trash bins, and the trash company now won't take anything that will not fit into the provided bins. I'm not leaving the trash stacked around MY house!

40 posted on 12/29/2003 10:43:57 AM PST by RightField (The older you get . . . the older "old" is !)
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