Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Hidden Costs of Recycling

Earlier today, I came across an article written by an economist named Daniel Benjamin. Earlier this semester, we discussed recycling in class, and questioned whether it really helps the environment or not. The article is entitled the “Eight Great Myths of Recycling.” In this article Benjamin defines these eight myths as follows:

· Our Garbage Will Bury Us
· Our Garbage Will Poison Us
· Packaging Is Our Problem
· We Must Achieve Trash Independence
· We Squander Irreplaceable Resources When We Don’t Recycle
· Recycling Always Protects The Environment
· Recycling Saves Resources
· Without Forced Recycling Mandates, There Wouldn’t Be Recycling

I originally come from Bergenfield, New Jersey. In Bergenfield, recycling is mandatory. Everybody there seems to believe the sixth misconception about recycling, which is that recycling always protects the environment. The problem with recycling is that in order to turn the recyclables in to useable goods, resources must be consumed, hence creating pollution. In addition to pollution created from processing recyclables, other negative effects of recycling are shown in the following example:

This effect is particularly apparent in the case of curbside recycling, which is mandated or strongly encouraged by governments in many communities around the country. Curbside recycling requires that more trucks be used to collect the same amount of waste materials, trucks that pick up perhaps four to eight pounds of recyclables, rather than forty or more pounds of rubbish. Los Angeles has estimated that because it has curbside recycling, its fleet of trucks is twice as large as it otherwise would be—800 versus 400 trucks. (Benjamin)

This example is proof of many unseen negative effects of recycling. For example, the city of Los Angeles now has to pay twice as many garbage men because of the increased size of its fleet. In addition to this it has to spend a larger portion of its tax revenue on fuel and maintenance for these garbage trucks. This either causes increased taxes or budget cuts from other areas of the local economy. There is no doubt in my mind that these same effects are present in virtually every city and town with mandatory recycling. Although recycling sounds good on paper, the unseen costs it carries may actually make it worse than simply throwing things in the trash.

7 comments:

BinMan said...

You can't be serious. Really, you can't.

I stumbled across this article today that outweighed the importance of recycling against the relatively small amount of pollution it creates (that's right: it's yours).

Hell, buddy. I'll tell you what creates MORE pollution: LANDFILL, which is all the UN-recyclyed waste goes.

What's worse is that you're complaining about the costs.

Think about it.

-Excuse my angriness,

BinMan.

Kubat said...

i kinda agree with the article, there are certainly the costs that are not clear yet. the recycling will be positive only if its going to be total!

Anonymous said...

Recycling does have postive and negitive effects and cost is a big issue but theres also the chemicals that have to be put back into recycled products because they loes quality as they get recycled and some recycled products get made into things they shouldnt such as recyled plastics which there fibers can get made into shirts but thouse shemicals in the fibers should never be placed on human skin. there are many postive effects of reycling though and before you take jugment on the cost you must also look at the revenue. good job eith your artcile it helped alot thanks.

Eminia said...

Very nice post...but sometimes its not exact as described. Closed Loop Recycling

Anonymous said...

Look into how much pollution a land fill actually creates... The largest one in the states produces electricity to power 60,000 homes just from the decomposition of the trash.

Best person on earth said...

Okay This is crazy.did you know there are two landfills that if u put them togetehr htan there bigger than ENGLAND !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

said his girlfriend said...

thats crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!