Saturday, March 13, 2010

On recycling

My attitude towards recycling is similar to that of voting. Does it matter if I vote? Not really. If I refrained from voting, all of the same people would be elected, all of the same measures would pass, etc. But if everyone refrained from voting, our society would fall apart. Therefore, I vote as a civic responsibility. Similarly, if I don't recycle, the earth won't be able to sustain life for one second longer than it otherwise would. But if everyone didn't recycle, it could have a significant effect.

But now I read three disturbing posts at Sippican Cottage about the merits of recycling. It starts here where he states: "I've done more recycling than forty-five Ed Begleys, so I'll clue you in on a little secret: after you sort through your trash like a raccoon and put it on the curb to try to resurrect Bambi's mom through clean living, it all gets thrown in a landfill when you're not looking. It's a kabuki theater, not a real process."

It continues here where he follows up on that by stating he has actual, honest-to-God credentials in this subject:

You see, when I said I'd recycled more than all those Ed Begleys, I meant it. I do not mean it as an appeal to superior credentials, but I've been a Division Manager for a large Environmental and Construction company before. ... And me and all the dozens of employees that worked for me, including a few environmental scientists, had all sorts of training and the resultant credentials to handle all sorts of waste. I've had hardcore RCRA training. I doubt anyone else I've mentioned has. And I've had profit and loss responsibility for the safe disposal of beaucoup tonnage of wood, glass, metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, soil, contaminated soil, concrete, bituminous concrete, tile, asbestos, lead, waste oil...

And with this background, he states that the majority of recycling is simply dumped in landfills.

Then it finishes here, where he recycles some news stories (his pun, not mine) to verify the point. The first one is the most bothersome: "Only 30 percent of paper, plastic, and cardboard that arrives at the Friedman recycling plant in east El Paso is actually recyclable, according to Ismael Barrera, manager of the Friedman Recycling Plant. This means that only about a third of all trash slated for recycling is actually being reused." Oy.


Timothy Mills said...

Oy indeed. I certainly agree with you on the civic responsibility thing.

And how disturbing is it that so much well-intentioned effort is simply wasted? It can be hard enough to motivate myself to wash and recycle the little plastic cup my daughter's yogurt came in. To know that it's very unlikely to end up somewhere better than the dump makes that motivation all the more difficult.

I guess I'll have to try extra hard on the whole "reduce" and "reuse" aspects of waste-reduction.

Matt K said...

If everyone refrained from voting, I would vote.

IlĂ­on said...

"And how disturbing is it that so much well-intentioned effort is simply wasted?"

The road to Hell, and all that ...

Anyone paying attention has known for years that the recycling hoopla is just hoopla; and, in fact, most of it is wasteful of material resources and of human time (which is the more valuable of the two).

Consider it from the point of economics ... if recycling were actually accomplishing something positive, rather than wasteful, it wouldn't have to be subsidized on the taxpayer dime, and the habit wouldn't require constant PSA reinforcement. Rather, people would recycle because there is profit in doing so.