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The Utter Waste Of Recycling
Toogood Reports ^ | January 19, 2003 | Alan Caruba

Posted on 01/21/2003 3:55:14 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe

Twice a month I have to bundle my newspapers and take boxes with glass and plastic items down to the curb to be removed and, one assumes, recycled. This does not include the two other pickups for what is presumably just plain old garbage. I am old enough to remember when a person just threw all of this stuff into the garbage can to be taken away. It involved two less trips and a smaller bill from the "waste management" company.

Ask yourself about the utility of recycling. Glass is made from sand. The Earth is not running out of sand. Newspapers, when buried, stay intact for decades and, when burned, become mere ashes. Recycling plastic requires as much or more energy than to produce it. Its uses, however, are extraordinary, contributing to a healthier lifestyle for everyone. So, why recycle?

In 1998, it cost Americans $36 billion to get rid of 210 million tons of municipal waste. It probably costs more today. Part of that multi-billion cost is the additional element of recycling requirements. It´s not like you have a choice. New York City publishes a brochure on recycling that says bluntly "It´s the law."

There is no question that Americans produce a lot of garbage. In the past we buried or burned it, but that was before the environmentalists, Greens, began a campaign that would have us believe there was no room left for landfills, that landfills were inherently a "hazard", and that incinerators were no better because of what came out of the smokestack. All of a sudden, it became very costly to get rid of the garbage where, before, it was no big deal.

The result of the Green lies about garbage was the closing of thousands of landfills around the nation and the increased difficulty of opening new ones. One effort in New Jersey to build a new incinerator ended up a financial nightmare for investors when the courts ruled that haulers could not be compelled by law to bring the garbage to the incinerator, especially if it was cheaper to dump it somewhere else.

The problem is not that we have more garbage. The problem is we have fewer places to bury and burn it. For that you can thank the Greens. This is something to think about every time you separate your glass and plastic or bundle your newspapers, You may feel you are doing something noble for the environment, but you are paying more for that privilege and the odds are the stuff is being buried and burned just the same. The market for anything recycled often proves unprofitable because the cost of recycling does not justify itself.

One scholar, A. Clark Wiseman of Spokane´s Gonzaga University, calculated that, at the current rate of solid waste generation, the nation´s entire solid waste for the next 1,000 years could be buried in a single landfill 100 yards high and 35 miles square. We are not running out of land for landfills. We have run into the lie that they are unsafe. The truth is that landfills have been routinely converted into valuable property once filled. In California there are a number of golf courses that were former landfills. In New Jersey, there are malls and corporate campuses.

In July of last year, New York City suspended the collection of plastic and beverage cartons for a year and the collection of glass for two years. Said the Mayor, "This temporary suspension will save the City an estimated $40 million." Now do the math. If New York can save $40 million by not requiring recycling, imagine the billions that could be saved by cities and suburbs coast to coast? You could renovate every school in America with those funds.

In the end, if recycling was cost-efficient why is it necessary to pass laws to force people to separate and bundle stuff that could just as easily be tossed out with the rest of the garbage? That´s how environmentalism works. It creates a Big Lie and then sets about getting laws passed to mandate it. Years later, states, cities, communities, and just ordinary people begin to ask, "Why are we doing this?" and the answer is, "It´s the law."

It wasn´t always the law. There was a time when landfills were understood to be a perfectly sensible way to get rid of the garbage. Incinerators, too. But that was before the Greens decided recycling was a dandy way to make everyone think that throwing out the garbage was yet another "hazard", "danger", and "threat" to Mother Earth. To which I say, "That´s just garbage!"


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events
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1 posted on 01/21/2003 3:55:14 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I promote Civil Disobedience on this topic.
2 posted on 01/21/2003 3:58:10 PM PST by ScholarWarrior
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To: All
Interesting.
3 posted on 01/21/2003 3:58:58 PM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: *Enviralists; farmfriend
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4 posted on 01/21/2003 3:59:15 PM PST by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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5 posted on 01/21/2003 3:59:31 PM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
You may feel you are doing something noble for the environment, but you are paying more for that privilege and the odds are the stuff is being buried and burned just the same.

A garbage man friend of mine told me that the whole program is government subsidized, and that a large portion ends up in land fills anyway. It doesn't save anything.

6 posted on 01/21/2003 4:01:18 PM PST by antaresequity
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I am, fortunatly, not in the city limits.

I do not have trash pickup.

If it burns, I burn it, if not, it goes in a bag to be dumped in a convienient gas station trash can.

I would recycle my glass beer bottles, but the county recycling trailer wont take them, because it cost way more than it is worth.

7 posted on 01/21/2003 4:01:46 PM PST by Ford Fairlane
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To: Tailgunner Joe
My recycle contribution consists of letting the state keep my 5 cents per bottle and can.
8 posted on 01/21/2003 4:03:52 PM PST by Semper Paratus
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To: Tailgunner Joe
My Boy Scout Troop recycles aluminum cans. Given that I can sell empty cans to numerous outlets for $0.31/pound, I'm figuring that there's a real savings in recycling this stuff. I'm told that reusing aluminum cans to make more cans, instead of processing new bauxite for this purpose, saves lots of electricity. Also, aluminum cans aren't going to degrade in landfills.
9 posted on 01/21/2003 4:04:48 PM PST by RonF
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The concept of recycling glass isn't to save sand; it's to save the energy used in digging up, transporting, and processing that sand into glass. What the cost of that is vs. recycling glass is unknown to me, but to just reference "running out of sand" is misleading.
10 posted on 01/21/2003 4:06:50 PM PST by RonF
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To: Tailgunner Joe
It wasn´t always the law. There was a time when landfills were understood to be a perfectly sensible way to get rid of the garbage. Incinerators, too.

Proposing endless landfills is not conservative thought. It's wasteful and utilitarian.

In LA, smog reached a peak in the 1950s. Incinerators were part of the problem. The smog is still terrible, but the evil restrictions on car emissions and rubbish burning have improved the situation.

I really don't understand how trashing your children's environment can be interpreted as "conservative".
11 posted on 01/21/2003 4:07:04 PM PST by Belial
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The enviro-whackos are guilty of extremism on a wide variety of issues,
but one only needs to view the mountain of garbage in Mexico City
to be reminded that there is validity to some of their concerns.
12 posted on 01/21/2003 4:07:49 PM PST by Willie Green (Go Pat Go!!!)
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To: Ford Fairlane
it goes in a bag to be dumped in a convienient gas station trash can.

Ha! Having just downscaled from two homes to one, I became a "Midnight Dumpster Devil" with alacrity...motivation breeds ingenuity.

Love the screen name, BTW - are you Andrew Dice Clay?

13 posted on 01/21/2003 4:08:18 PM PST by ErnBatavia ((Bumperootus!))
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Here in the Minneapolis area, all of our trash goes to the "garbage burner".

So we not only have less going to landfills, its generates electricity AND is a Steam Plant that pumps steam into the downtown area buildings.

14 posted on 01/21/2003 4:08:26 PM PST by Johnny Gage (God Bless America, God Bless President George Bush, and God Bless our Military!)
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To: RonF
Aluminum cans are the ONLY thing that is economically viable for recycling; as you note, refining bauxite ore requires ridiculous amounts of electricity, so that the total cost of collecting used cans, melting them down, and making new cans is less than the cost of making new cans from bauxite ore.

That's it. And since it makes money in a free market, people would do it on their own without local ordinances requiring it.

ALL other recycling is a waste of money and doesn't do anything to help the environment.
15 posted on 01/21/2003 4:08:56 PM PST by John H K
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Finally, recycled plastic is made into fleece, which is a fabric that is highly valued out here in Chicago and points north for keeping you very warm without needing the maintenance that wool, etc., need. It's also made into durable materials to make park and bus benches out of, as well as planking materials for the new deck you're putting in off the back of your house next summer. This means that we don't have buy barrels of oil from our good friends in the Middle East to make this stuff. The value of this latter cannot be totally accounted for economically.
16 posted on 01/21/2003 4:11:12 PM PST by RonF
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To: Belial
In LA, smog reached a peak in the 1950s. Incinerators were part of the problem.

I grew up there, and can confirm your observation....however, the U.S. doesn't seem quite ready to accept the new technology available for incineration. Japan has stuff that would boggle our Americanese minds.

17 posted on 01/21/2003 4:11:21 PM PST by ErnBatavia ((Bumperootus!))
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To: Willie Green
That's a breakdown in the local services of Mexico City or a reflection of cultural norms, not evidence that Mexico City doesn't have room for its garbage.

I'm sure whatever recycling program they attempted to institute would fail as miserably as their programs for picking up garbage and transporting it to landfills.

The myth that there isn't ROOM for garbage has been pounded so relentlessly into people's heads (and children even more) that even though the article notes it's a myth, and we're on FR, people can't quite let go of it.
18 posted on 01/21/2003 4:11:47 PM PST by John H K
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Well maybe for some materials, recycling is a waste. But not for paper. My uncle, a former VP at International paper says they profitably recycle paper up to 4 times - each time losing a quality grade in the finished product. So heavy parchment paper becomes newsprint which later recycled becomes paper cups, which ends up as paperboard for consumer items.

If recycling paper was such a complete waste, then I can assure you IP would not be doing it.

19 posted on 01/21/2003 4:12:18 PM PST by fogarty
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To: John H K
Incorrect. Paper is a material which can be profitably recycled. See my post above.
20 posted on 01/21/2003 4:13:09 PM PST by fogarty
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To: ErnBatavia
Love the screen name, BTW - are you Andrew Dice Clay?

No, but we share a few opinions on things

When I first signed up I was using the laptop in the garage & working on my '68 Fairlane, so it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

I wanted to stay anonymous as I have been known to criticize our local republican party leaders

21 posted on 01/21/2003 4:13:19 PM PST by Ford Fairlane
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The problems is: what is it used for.

If the authorities convinced me recycled material was fabricated into JDAMs for use in Iraq and other parts, I'd visit the recycling center three times a day.
22 posted on 01/21/2003 4:14:08 PM PST by Man of the Right
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To: Belial
I really don't understand how trashing your children's environment can be interpreted as "conservative".

Arrgh.....that's the whole point. Landfills DON'T trash the environment....there's a difference between a landfill and an industrial waste site, but people lump them together.

There never were "endless landfills" and even if all recyling ended forever today there NEVER would be endless landfills.

What recyling has become (particularly because of the endless harping on it in schools) is a pseudo-enviro-religious ritual or penance that makes people feel good but is environmentally irrelevant.

23 posted on 01/21/2003 4:16:11 PM PST by John H K
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To: Ford Fairlane
Ah, the good old days! Last fall, I burned a pile of leaves just to refresh the olfactory memories. I figured someone would call the cops on me as that is a no no. Two neighbors started handing piles of leaves over the wall, "smells great!". Kids loved it, too.

Big sigh.

LVM

24 posted on 01/21/2003 4:18:55 PM PST by LasVegasMac
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To: Tailgunner Joe
In Wisconsin we have a strict recycling law which is not enforced. As homeowner, I am required to recycled a dozen different materials and hire a special garbage company to haul them away. They are all dumped together on the truck after they leave my kitchen and mixed with all the regular garbage at the landfill.

The only people the landfill goons require to separate the recyclables are the small garbage haulers. The big guys, like Waste Management and BFI, just dump all the stuff in the same hole. That is why all the little guys are quickly going out of business. Very shortly we will only have BFI and WM.

25 posted on 01/21/2003 4:19:26 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: fogarty
Incorrect. Paper is a material which can be profitably recycled. See my post above.

Nope, I suspect you're not looking at WHO it is costing.

It's profitable FOR THE PAPER COMPANY because they're making more money from selling what they recycle the paper into than they're paying for the old paper coming in.

The problem is, the municipalities collecting the garbage paper to recycle are likely spending more money collecting it and sorting it than they're taking in from selling it to the paper company. This is where the money is lost and how NYC can save that much $$$ from stopping recycling.

26 posted on 01/21/2003 4:20:35 PM PST by John H K
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To: John H K
What recyling has become (particularly because of the endless harping on it in schools) is a pseudo-enviro-religious ritual or penance that makes people feel good but is environmentally irrelevant.

Our mayor admitted to me that the only reason for separating the recyclables (because everything goes into the same hole) is that someday when someone figures out how to use this stuff, they can "mine" the mountains of plastic, glass, paper, etc.

27 posted on 01/21/2003 4:21:52 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: LasVegasMac
I am in a no mans land between 2 towns where leaf burning is illegal.

I burn, but a couple of houses either way they can't.

28 posted on 01/21/2003 4:22:09 PM PST by Ford Fairlane
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To: afraidfortherepublic
"They are all dumped together on the truck after they leave my kitchen and mixed with all the regular garbage at the landfill. "

Same here, and it's been going on for years. All the 'recycling' we do is for nothing.

29 posted on 01/21/2003 4:22:34 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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To: ScholarWarrior
i haven't recycled in years.the entire concept is a farce.
30 posted on 01/21/2003 4:23:27 PM PST by contessa machiaveli
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To: John H K
The problem is, the municipalities collecting the garbage paper to recycle are likely spending more money collecting it and sorting it than they're taking in from selling it to the paper company. This is where the money is lost and how NYC can save that much $$$ from stopping recycling.

Our small city had its own recycling center which was enthusiastically used by all. The city eventually closed it because it was costing a fortune to operate and required a couple of full time people to manage. Now the local garbage haulers take the stuff on the same truck as the garbage, but as I said above it all gets dumped into the same hole.

31 posted on 01/21/2003 4:24:39 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Indy Pendance
Same here, and it's been going on for years. All the 'recycling' we do is for nothing

Not only that, the State forced adoption of the law. However, the State (Wisconsin) also permits the landfills to take Illinois garbage, and no attempt is made to separate the recyclables. The word "farce" comes to mind, but someone else already used it!

32 posted on 01/21/2003 4:27:22 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Bookmarked!

Thanks for posting this reality.
33 posted on 01/21/2003 4:27:32 PM PST by Grampa Dave (Free Republic, the site supported by those who don't believe in free lunches! Are you a donor?)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"Mother Earth" has been "recycling" everything for a long, long time. We're fools to think that we can do it better or more economically.
34 posted on 01/21/2003 4:28:38 PM PST by tje
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To: Belial
I really don't understand how trashing your children's environment can be interpreted as "conservative".

I told my children ( 8 and 5) that they could not generate any garbage what so ever because they would screw up the legacy for their children.

I'm still pissed off at my Mom and Dad.

LVM

35 posted on 01/21/2003 4:29:48 PM PST by LasVegasMac
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To: contessa machiaveli
The article doesn't even mention a word about the worlds biggest problem - WHITE TRASH! Why can't we get rid of that?????


36 posted on 01/21/2003 4:30:09 PM PST by stlrocket
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To: Tailgunner Joe
One scholar, A. Clark Wiseman of Spokane´s Gonzaga University, calculated that, at the current rate of solid waste generation, the nation´s entire solid waste for the next 1,000 years could be buried in a single landfill 100 yards high and 35 miles square...

Well, that's a little misleading: when he says 35 miles square, many people think 35 square miles, or not quite 6x6 miles. In fact, he is referring to a square area 35x35 or 1225 square miles. Granted, that is still small relative to the size of the country. But it still seems a little deceptive.

And frankly, I avoid all non-mandatory recycling.

37 posted on 01/21/2003 4:30:37 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Think of all the toilet paper that could be made if all the tons of new federal regulations were recycled and all the trees that could be saved if these regulations weren't passed in the first place.
38 posted on 01/21/2003 4:32:30 PM PST by The Great RJ
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To: Carry_Okie
Fyi and your comments re some of the pro recycling comments.
39 posted on 01/21/2003 4:33:35 PM PST by Grampa Dave (Free Republic, the site supported by those who don't believe in free lunches! Are you a donor?)
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To: John H K
If someone is willing to buy recycled paper products from IP, then I suspect the market is taking care of the costs. New York City is beside the point. IP recycles paper, and makes money producing products made with recycled paper. Whether or not NYC has a system which lets the freemarket work is another issue. The fact is, recycling can work with certain products, in a free market, and IP has proven that.
40 posted on 01/21/2003 4:36:29 PM PST by fogarty
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To: RonF
I am in the Waste Business. It's not that we are going to run out of sand or that it takes too much energy to make glass, the reason why glass recycling doesn't work is because it is CHEAPER to make it from raw materials than to recycle it. It is Market Economics. The same thing applies to landfills and recycling in general. In most places, it is CHEAPER to take it to a landfill than to recycle it. Mandatory Recycling programs interfere with the free market economics at play here. "Bottle Bills" - Those 5 or 10 cent deposit in some states and Mandatory Curbside recycling programs have interfered with the free market. In the end, the dollar wants to take the CHEAPEST path which in most cases isn't recycling.
41 posted on 01/21/2003 4:38:43 PM PST by lmr
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To: The Great RJ
Do not forget those pop tops off of soda cans that buy organs for small children. I have seen cups in cafeterias here in corporate offices in NJ. Bless them,, <---(:>}
42 posted on 01/21/2003 4:42:38 PM PST by Afronaut
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To: fogarty
So heavy parchment paper becomes newsprint which later recycled becomes paper cups, which ends up as paperboard for consumer items.

Just remember the next time you drink out of a paper cup that it used to be a newspaper in the bottom of some bird cage or lining some cat litter box. :^)

43 posted on 01/21/2003 4:45:35 PM PST by Some hope remaining.
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To: Tailgunner Joe
You may feel you are doing something noble for the environment, but you are paying more for that privilege and the odds are the stuff is being buried and burned just the same.

We just started curbside recycling in our area last year. We don't have to sort, and we are provided a large plastic container to put our recyclables in, but we have been told to rinse our cans and bottles before disposing of them! We are in the middle of a huge drought and have been asked to conserve water, yet we are supposed to wash out every soup can, spaghetti sauce jar and soda bottle before placing them in the recycle container! Guess what, tough, I don't wash them; I pay for the privilege of recycling, I'm not paying extra on my water bill too.

T

44 posted on 01/21/2003 4:45:55 PM PST by T Minus Four
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To: Belial
I don't believe that Conservatives are promoting "endless landfills" that comment is misleading regarding the intention of Conservatives. Conservatives believe in the free-market system and if Sanitation can be acheived at a landfill for low cost and proves to be cheaper than Recycling then the free-market will determine that the trash ends up where costs are the least. If Recycling is profitable then I am sure the free-market will take care of that as well. Not all recycling is this way. It actually consumes more resources, energy and labor to process some recyclables than it does to make them from raw materials. This equals a zero or negative benefit for the environment if you ask me. If your trash has any value, why do you pay companies to take it? The fact is that some day this waste may have some value, and then Capitalism would determine that we mine the landfills, but until then why mess with the free-market system to "save the earth"?
45 posted on 01/21/2003 4:49:27 PM PST by lmr
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To: fogarty
Incorrect. Paper is a material which can be profitably recycled. See my post above.

Paper can be profitably recycled in cases where the collection and sorting costs are minimal, as it typically is with "pre-consumer" waste. If a company has a ton or so of unsold magazines that can be thrown in bulk into a pulping machine [assuming the machine doesn't mind stapes] that may take a few minutes of labor and generate a buck or so of value.

Compare that situation to one of collecting newspapers from a recycling bin; that requires either having workers shake out the individual newspapers to ensure there's nothing else mixed in with them or else accepting product spoilage resulting from mixing in unsuitable stuff with the paper. Managing a ton of paper that way is apt to require man hours worth of work and thus be far less worthwhile.

46 posted on 01/21/2003 4:49:29 PM PST by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I love going to the dump and sometimes bring home more than I drop off. The things people throw away is incredible. Once I found 2 large quartersawn oak doors with all the old original brass hardware. The guys said "take 'em", I did and sold them the next day for $160.00! Now that's my idea of recycling.

Also, one of the guys that works at the recycling center/dump told me he makes $5000 a year on 5 cent bottles and cans and thats tax free.

47 posted on 01/21/2003 4:50:36 PM PST by panaxanax
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To: John H K
Arrgh.....that's the whole point. Landfills DON'T trash the environment....there's a difference between a landfill and an industrial waste site, but people lump them together.

I'll agree with you that recycling is a farce, but landfills aren't the answer either. One of the problems we're running into out here in California is "blooms" of polluted chemicals leaching out of old landfills and polluting the aquifiers below. There are MANY areas in California where residents outside of municipal water districts are forced to buy bottled water for their homes because the well water is too polluted to use for drinking and cooking...and much of this pollution stems from old landfill and burial/dumping operations. Sure, there's enough land for us to landfill for thousands of years, but if we actually required landfill operators to seal their pits against leaching, with a 150 year no-leak minimum, then the economic justification for landfilling begins to evaporate.

What we really need are more modern incineration facilities with up-to-date filtration systems.
48 posted on 01/21/2003 5:08:24 PM PST by Arthalion
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To: Belial
"I really don't understand how trashing your children's environment can be interpreted as "conservative"."

Agreed. But there appear to be different types, of environmentalism.

Like you perhaps, I was taught to respect nature. Pick up ALL trash when camping, and carry it out.

Hunting and fishing were fine, just don't overdue it, or you'll be out of luck (and fish, and game).

Smog WAS really bad in the 50s and 60s and 70s, in SoCal. But it is much better now, in my opinion. I credit that to technology, and begrudgingly to government.

I do NOT like the type of environmentalism which spikes trees, or which calls me a terrorist for owning an SUV.

As to the subject of this article, I live in a large metro area, made up of many separate cities. Some have the residents separate glass, aluminum, paper, etc.

In our town, we do NOT separate. It is claimed that takes place, once the trash is collected.

I cannot convince my wife to save the grass clippings, as compost. It is one of my conservative leanings, to wish to do so.

She is "tidy" and wants to immediately dispose of anything trashlike. Then later, when you need fertilizer for the garden, buy it at the store, in a bag.

Sidenote: If one can remember incinerators in SoCal, he/she has lived a few years. That was before 1960, I recall.

Early discoverers, said the LA basin was always covered by a layer of smoke, from all of the Indian fires, the effect of the inversion layer.

SoCal was the largest settlement of Native Americans, in the USA. Great climate for agriculture; the ocean, etc.

I believe God made things with some regenerative capability. Besides, its his deal, and not our own, anyway.

If he shorted us on dead dinosours, or bauxite, we'll have to dream up some other solution. Unless we piss him off, too much.
49 posted on 01/21/2003 5:08:25 PM PST by truth_seeker
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To: antaresequity
Your garbage man friend is correct (I'm a former garbage god)except for newspaper, and cardboard. Those two types of paper are easily re-cycled and save on wood that's better put to other uses like houses, plywood, particle board products, and my favorite gunstocks. Actually about 6 years ago in Portland, OR the price of a ton of newspaper at the recycling center was up to over $100 and we actually had people driving our routes ahead of us stealing the newspaper from our customers. Plastic and glass is better off in the landfill because they're worthless.
50 posted on 01/21/2003 5:12:14 PM PST by Tailback
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