MARCH 9, 2019
RECYCLING IS STILL GARBAGE: Fiscal realities are finally persuading towns to junk their recycling programs, as the Atlantic reports sorrowfully. Alana Semuels nicely analyzes the fatal economic flaws of recycling but ends with a bit of green sermonizing:
Americans are going to have to come to terms with a new reality: All those toothpaste tubes and shopping bags and water bottles that didn’t exist 50 years ago need to go somewhere, and creating this much waste has a price we haven’t had to pay so far.
Actually, we’ve already paid the price by building landfills with with expensive liners and other environmental safeguards. And we’ve paid a lot more for recycling programs that were never necessary. Yes, those water bottles do have to go somewhere — and there’s plenty of room for them right back where they came from, in the ground. Why are greens horrified by the prospect of a plastic bottle made from petroleum being buried in a landfill? The plastic poses less of an underground threat than the petroleum did. It’s much better environmentally (and cheaper) to put plastic bottles in a local landfill instead of shipping them off for recycling to Asia (the only place with any market for them), because some of those bottles end up in rivers that send the plastic waste into the Pacific Ocean.
Eric Boehm at Reason has a much savvier take on the scrapped recycling programs:
Like most other civic issues, recycling programs should be judged by their costs and benefits. That means an honest assessment of the costs and benefits, one that leaves out the social signaling of environmentalism and the feel-good effects of putting an empty Coke bottle in a plastic bin that’s painted blue instead of black. There is no need to recycle all the things all the time, and the market seems to be sending towns and cities a powerful signal about the benefits of calling trash, trash.