Skip to comments.If You’re Recycling, You’re Wasting Your Time
Posted on 10/19/2015 6:40:24 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
I dont recycle. I stopped recycling in 2001, when I lived in Ithaca, New York, and recycling was mandatory. We had to throw away our garbage in clear plastic bags so that the recycling police could make sure there was no paper or plastic in the trash, we had to pay for every single bag of trash we thew away (we called it our garbage fine), and when we initially labored in good faith to comply with recycling mandates we found it was tough to keep our small apartment clean and bug-free while piling empty cans, bottles, and boxes in the corner of our kitchen. So when we found there was a short window of time where we could go to the local landfill and get away with tossing out garbage in opaque, thick Hefty bags, we defied the law and never looked back.
Even now as we live in the free state of Tennessee when friends come over and ask where we put our recycling, we just say In the trash and revel just a tiny bit in our ancient rebellion. But now thanks to the New York Times, of all publications I feel vindicated. This month, John Tierney revisited his 1996 critique of recycling, and what he found was fascinating indeed (h/t AEIs Mark J. Perry):
Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, its still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies. The mood is so gloomy that one industry veteran tried to cheer up her colleagues this summer with an article in a trade journal titled, Recycling Is Not Dead!
And: While politicians set higher and higher goals, the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. Yes, its popular in affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope in Brooklyn and in cities like San Francisco, but residents of the Bronx and Houston dont have the same fervor for sorting garbage in their spare time. The future for recycling looks even worse. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish. If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then theres a crisis to confront, says David P. Steiner, the chief executive officer of Waste Management, the largest recycler of household trash in the United States. Trying to turn garbage into gold costs a lot more than expected. We need to ask ourselves: What is the goal here?
Tierney doesnt claim that all recycling is worthless, but he notes some rather inconvenient facts like the mere act of rinsing off your plastic recyclables may actually increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And while it makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, an EPA official said that other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables. The zero-waste goal makes no sense at all its very expensive with almost no real environmental benefit. But do we have enough room in landfills? Yes: One of the original goals of the recycling movement was to avert a supposed crisis because there was no room left in the nations landfills.
But that media-inspired fear was never realistic in a country with so much open space. In reporting the 1996 article I found that all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. And that tiny amount of land wouldnt be lost forever, because landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland, like the Freshkills Park being created on Staten Island. The United States Open tennis tournament is played on the site of an old landfill and one that never had the linings and other environmental safeguards required today.
Though most cities shun landfills, they have been welcomed in rural communities that reap large economic benefits (and have plenty of greenery to buffer residents from the sights and smells). Consequently, the great landfill shortage has not arrived, and neither have the shortages of raw materials that were supposed to make recycling profitable.
Tierney concludes with paragraphs rarely seen in the Times where he compares environmentalism to *gasp* a religion. Yes, he does: Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special-interest politics is one reason pressure from green groups but its also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint. It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins. Religious rituals dont need any practical justification for the believers who perform them voluntarily.
But many recyclers want more than just the freedom to practice their religion. They want to make these rituals mandatory for everyone else, too, with stiff fines for sinners who dont sort properly. Seattle has become so aggressive that the city is being sued by residents who maintain that the inspectors rooting through their trash are violating their constitutional right to privacy.
And thats exactly what started my own little rebellion. Environmentalists, I truly dont care if you choose to waste your time composting, sorting yogurt packets, and competing with each other to see who can throw away the smallest bags of garbage. Just dont make me join your faith.
Liberalism is an IQ test. The smug people are the dumb people.
I have to wash the garbage I put in the recycling bin so we don’t have flies in the garage.
My parents never washed the garbage. I know this because I used to empty the wastebaskets every day and take the garbage out every week.
The same with “climate change,” it’s a religion and will make us poorer and lead to tyranny.
recycling is energy costing. It costs more to make products from recycled stuff than from original. It’s an energy waster. But heck, it helps global warming or saves the rats or something.
My daughters ask me why we don’t recycle. I told them there is no money in it. If there was, someone would pay me to recycle.
I will ALWAYS compost veggie scraps and garden waste and will burn what I can - but I might not always ‘recycle’ as I should. I will crush cans and save aluminum for cash, but it’s not an obsession by any means.
However, he makes a good point that those stuck in Liberal Cities or, ‘In Town’ as we call them, have to have a place to keep their recyclables until pick-up day which can be messy and stinky in the heat of summer.
I live in the boonies and have NEVER had a problem getting rid of anything; I haul it to the ‘curb’ and it’s gone in sixty seconds. ;)
I ‘release’ it back into The Universe and if someone else wants to profit from it, so much the better. :)
Recycling, like windmills, is a racket!
Boy is that right. Nail on head.
Aluminum makes sense to recycle
Glass and non-aluminum is borderline
Paper and plastic are not worth it except as some feel good exercise
Yes, but it makes you feel virtuous.
What is the skinny on bottle recycling? Some states still have deposits on pop and beer bottles, most do not as they are recycled. Since deposits on bottles were a part of my youth, I always figured it must be worth something. I was 11 years old a working in the back of a grocery store putting bottles in cases for $.10 per. Is it a waste of resources?
NYT Magazine ran an article 20 years ago or so explaining how recycling requires more energy than using raw materials offsetting any environmental advantage. Also, that the lower grade recyclables (the number on the recycle triangle) are just dumped as they are not really recyclable or worth recycling. It is all a sham to get us in lock step.
I throw everything in the same bin...let them sort it out. I got better things to do with my time.
I recycle my aluminum [beer cans] and rinse out my cans, etc., so ye garbage doesn’t stink. And everything that would raise a stink gets chopped up and flushed. Works for me! I’m lazy...
However here in Thailand there is money in it. Plastic bottles, cardboard, cans, glass bottles, metal, etc. Are all not only accepted at recycle centers, but money paid. We have scavengers (poor Thais) that check our trash daily.
We have a snack store where we get a lot of those recycles. The mother in law controls it for us, when she exchanges she normally gets about 300 Baht ($10), that’s a day’s wage here.
High labor costs make recycling uneconomical.
Here Here Diana Can I Get An Amen!!!!
Here in Calif. they outlawed plastic bags for groceries and urged everyone to use the cloth bags to “save the environment.” We know a guy who works in a landfill and guess what. People are throwing away the cloth bags — which take up far more space in the landfill and much longer to deteriorate than the plastics.
Environmentalism is stuck in the 1960s.
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