Skip to comments.Recycling Is a Waste: It’s very expensive and has little or no environmental benefit.
Posted on 03/08/2019 10:23:36 AM PST by SeekAndFind
It took man only 20 centuries or so to give up trying to transmute base metals into gold. How long will it take us to stop trying to turn our rubbish into gold? As John Tierney put it 23 years ago in the New York Times, Recycling Is Garbage.
It may make sense to recycle a few items for the savings in carbon emissions paper, cardboard, and metals such as aluminum from cans. Recycling a ton of these items saves about three tons of carbon dioxide. Glass, plastic, rubber, all the other stuff? Not really. We used to send our plastic empties to China, but China has lost interest, as The Atlantics Alana Semuels reports in Is This the End of Recycling? The subhead reads, Now that other countries wont take our papers and plastics, theyre ending up in the trash. Some municipalities are directing those recycling trucks to the nearest incinerator. A transfer station in New Hampshire reports that sending rubbish to a landfill costs $68 a ton. Recycling it? That costs $125 a ton. Wasnt recycling supposed to save us money, not cost twice as much?
In an episode of the Showtime series Bulls**t!, Penn and Teller profiled an L.A. mom who averred, of recycling, It just seems like the right thing to do. . . . I feel like Im being a good person. Im doing my part. Im setting an example for my kids. Its a way of life. She worried that not recycling might put more toxins in the food. Toxins in the food? replied host Penn Jillette. S**t, we all eat food, a lot! To explore just how much bulls**t people would put up with, Penn and Tellers team sent a crew to one L.A. couples house and explained to them a new pilot program that would create several new categories of recycling, each with a color-coded bin. This bin is for lightly soiled toilet paper. This one is for wet food. This one is for labeled metal cans. By the time the crew were done, the hapless citizens had nine huge bins on their curb. How did they respond to this elaborate prank? They not only couldnt tell it was a prank they loved it. I think its an excellent program, said one of them.
Note that people can lose track of cost/benefit analysis if they feel virtuous. What about all the time it takes in the household to wash and sort all this stuff? How much is it going to cost to convert all this rubbish into usable material? Los Angeles estimates that because of recycling programs, it operates twice as many trucks as it otherwise would. Recycling, wrote Tierney in his monumental 1996 piece, may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.
If there is a Saint Paul of the recycling movement, it might be J. Winston Porter, the E.P.A. official behind an influential federal paper, The Solid Waste Dilemma: An Agenda for Action, that advised Americans in 1989 that we were running out of landfill space and that recycling is absolutely vital. Possibly no policy change in the last half century has proved so popular: Is there any cheaper way to purchase a sense of virtue? Tossing your Dannon container in the color-coordinated barrel is a lot more convenient than going to church, much less paying attention to the service. Yet today even Porter is questioning the recycling boom, telling Tierney that most kinds of recycling, such as composting, make no sense at all.
The environmental cost of trash has been oversold. All of the trash Americans produce over the next millennium would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing, and lots of rural communities are open for business when it comes to accepting urban rubbish. There is no landfill shortage. If youve ever been to the U.S. Open tennis championship in Queens, youve seen what becomes of landfills: Arthur Ashe Stadium is built on one. Modern landfills have little environmental impact, although they do produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. New landfills capture that methane to use it for fuel, however.
Americans who perhaps have a bit more difficulty finding ways to certify their own virtue recycling is really popular in places such as San Francisco and Park Slope, not so much in places where people actually go to church are going to be stubborn about giving up their recycling habits. But New York Citys recycling program is a costly disaster: It runs New Yorkers $300 more to recycle a ton of trash than it would to put it in a landfill. When the next budget crunch hits New York and thats due approximately ten seconds after the next stock-market crash recycling would be an excellent program to cut. Recycling that empty bottle of Poland Spring is so expensive that its cheaper to simply manufacture a new one.
As for emissions benefits, Tierney notes that to offset the impact of a round-trip flight between New York and London, youd have to recycle 40,000 plastic bottles. If you fly coach. Thats if you dont account for the effects of rinsing out the bottle before putting it in the bin. Use hot water, and your recycling habit might actually be adding to total emissions.
These points have been made for many years, and theyll be made for many more, because the warm glow of virtue, especially when it comes at no visible cost to the consumer, is just too hard to resist. As The Onion put it way back in 1997: EPA: Recycling Eliminated More Than 50 Million Tons of Guilt in 96.
It’s about controlling personal behavior, and turning us into little parrots.
RBG finally passes away. Hillary immediately calls President Trump.
Hillary: "RBG was an icon, the greatest jurist of our age and an inspiration for women around the world. It's only fitting that I should take her place."
DJT: "It's ok with me if the undertaker doesn't mind."
Always believed this. Crazy how society has been duped into excessive recycling. I understand metals but nothing else.
Have been saying it was a waste of everyone’s time for years. Send it to a sorting facility and BURN what you can.
Recycling is like Solar/Wind power. Done in the right place and the right way, it is helpful. However, is isn’t cheaper.
That's a pretty broad brush you are using.
Many types of recycling are beneficial and sometimes even cost effective.
Measuring things in terms of carbon dioxide is idiotic and foolish. We should recycle metals because of what happens when you dig stuff up. We should recycle paper because of the stuff that happens when you process trees. Same with glass. It isnt the production of carbon dioxide that causes recycled aluminum to be useful its the mining and processing of bauxite ore and the big holes that have to be dug to get it, usually in some other country where we dont see it. And paper because of water pollution by paper factories that use bleach to make it white.
Our city provides us with a “regular garbage” can and a recycle can. Biggest reason I use the recycle is to keep from overflowing the regular garbage can.
“What about all the time it takes in the household to wash and sort all this stuff? Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.
The garbage company INSISTS on getting clean recyclables. Instead of them doing it on an industrial scale, they want me to do it. I’ve dutifully stood at the sink cleaning out the insides of jars and cans with hot water, watching all that scarce and valuable California water going down the drain AND all the high priced natural gas needed to heat that water with it.
It finally dawned on me that there is no payback to this when you consider my time and the resources to get the stuff clean enough to make the garbage company happy. So I quit doing that — they now get dirty food jars and cans.
With a trash compactor in our new house, the two of us are down to one heavy bag a week including the stuff that used to be recycled. It’s so much easier now. And the recyclables are going to wind up in the same place they would have wound up — the landfill.
I do not mind recycling cardboard and paper...
I do recycle metals that I store months then SELL for cash. If they pay me for it I know they are making money on the process.
I do not recycle anything else...
Back in the late 1960s, when recycling was first becoming noticed, I told everyone who would listen that it was nothing more than a plot to get us to stockpile garbage.
My opinions, and the facts, have not changed.
Metals are the only thing that is viable to recycle.
Plastics and paper/cardboard not wanted for recycling should be incinerated for their energy, not buried. That way they don’t fill our landfills, and we get some useful energy back out of them.
The public and politicians are so scientifically and economically illiterate that I despair of things ever getting better.
This article is so much crap. All of the arguments are based on global warming arguments. Methane comes from decaying plant matter in a landfill but the plant matter all came from carbon dioxide.
The thing about methane being a greenhouse gas is more malarkey. Elemental carbon is the 4th most abundant element in the entire universe, yet in all its forms it is at best the 14th most abundant element in the earths crust. The difference is caused by methane which is lighter than most atmospheric gases floating up to the upper atmosphere and getting carried away by the solar wind. It doesnt have enough time to make the earth warmer.
Back then they called it “ecology”. Remember that?
I'm not talking industrial recycling.
Garbage is Garbage no matter what you call it
I would agree with you on that part. Especially when you see them throw your recycled and non-recycled trash into the same truck.
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