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Why I Don't Recycle

The environmental benefits are outweighed by the costs.

by James Leroy Wilson
September 28, 2010

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Why I Don't Recycle

In several cities, Stimulus funds are being used to put RFID chips on trash cans and recycle bins to better monitor who is throwing stuff away "properly" and to impose heavy fines on violators. 

Thankfully, I don't live in one of those towns. I am in fact completely liberated from recycling. I just moved to a remote village. For a flat monthly fee, a waste disposal service gives each customer one large bin, and there is weekly trash pickup.

There is no recycling that I know of.

What I mean is the company may sort recyclables and sell any reusable material such as aluminum cans. I don't know if it does. But I do know I don't have to sort it myself.

Aluminum cans and glass bottles go into the same bin with all my regular garbage. My assumption is that if the garbage company believes it's worth it to sort the recyclables, it will.

I suppose I could sort recyclables myself and drive once a month to some recycling facility - if there is one nearby. But the closest town that even might possibly have such a facility is forty minutes away.

Is making a special trip worth it? Wouldn't my conservation efforts be at least partially offset by the gasoline consumed on the drive?

Also, if the garbage company finds value in having its customers recycle in exchange for lower pickup fees, it will do that. I'm glad that it doesn't.

Recycling can be tedious, particularly if one has to wash recyclables before putting them in the proper bin. With water becoming a more scarce resource, it seems to me the benefits of recycling are partly offset by the water consumption. Recycling also takes up house space. Not only must one have two or more outside bins, but inside one must keep special bags or boxes: one for paper, one for aluminum and glass, one for regular garbage, etc.

I believe cities and towns across America are making a big mistake. If recycled aluminum, glass, paper, plastics, etc. was of any value, individuals would be able to sell their recyclables on their own.

Moreover, if it was cheaper to recycle than to, for instance, mine new aluminum and produce new glass, companies would, on their own, start their own deposit programs. They would charge $1.10 for a $1.0 bottle of pop, and then give back ten cents when the empty bottle is returned.

As Floy Lilley points out, "recycling itself uses three times more resources than does depositing waste in landfills" and we are NOT running out of landfill space. In fact, landfills are a source of natural gas and many sites are converting to become energy facilities. Lilley goes on to say, "The US Office of Technology Assessment says that it is 'usually not clear whether secondary manufacturing such as recycling produces less pollution per ton of material processed than primary manufacturing processes.'" http://mises.org/daily/3887

Indeed, "Manufacturing paper, glass, and plastic from recycled materials uses appreciably more energy and water, and produces as much or more air pollution, as manufacturing from raw materials does. Resources are not saved and the environment is not protected."

Not only am I guilt-free about not recycling, I'd probably feel guilty if I started recycling again. And I would resent living in any town that forced me to.

Comments (1)

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JdL writes:
September 29, 2010
I agree that forced recycling is wasteful and irritating. You might want to consider saving scrap aluminum, however, as it alone among the many substances we're "supposed" to recycle has genuine value. My wife and I netted over $100 from a single trip a while back, an amount that would justify a moderate journey. Once it's mixed in with garbage, recycling aluminum is still possible, but is much less cost effective.

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