Wednesday, August 8, 2007


As the municipal monopoly on garbage gains momentum and the number of receptacles increases, the not so gentle readers who haunt these realms may wish to consider further the human costs of recycling. Thanks to Little Tobacco, I am reminded of the 8 great myths of recycling. Like Little Tobacco, "Recycling is not the religion I practice." A sample from the list:

Recycling is a manufacturing process with environmental impacts. Viewed across a wide spectrum of goods, recycling sometimes cuts pollution, but not always. The EPA has examined both virgin paper processing and recycled paper processing for toxic substances and found that toxins often are more prevalent in the recycling processes.

Often the pollution associated with recycling shows up in unexpected ways. Curbside recycling, for example, requires that more trucks be used to collect the same amount of waste materials. Thus, Los Angeles has 800 rubbish trucks rather than 400, because of its curb-side recycling. This means more iron ore and coal mining, steel and rubber manufacturing, petroleum extraction and refining-and of course extra air pollution in the Los Angeles basin.

It is widely claimed that recycling "saves resources." Proponents usually focus on savings of a specific resource, or they single out particularly successful examples such as the recycling of aluminum cans.

But using less of one resource generally means using more of other resources. Franklin Associates, a firm that consults on behalf of the EPA, has compared the costs per ton of handling rubbish through three methods: disposal into landfills (but with a voluntary drop-off or buy-back recycling program), a baseline curbside recycling program, and an extensive curbside recycling program.

On average, extensive recycling is 35 percent more costly than conventional disposal, and basic curbside recycling is 55 percent more costly than conventional disposal. That is, curbside recycling uses far more resources. As one expert puts it, adding curbside recycling is "like moving from once-a-week garbage collection to twice a week".

1 Comment:

creditlucky said...

Recycling seems to be like a home disposal - it just solves the problem of one's local garbage but doesn't work for enviromental protection.