This article got me thinking about recycling which is one of the oldest, best-established environmental habits for everyday-folk to practice.
Is it really just a grand show that consumes more resources than it’s worth?
No matter your conclusion, the best course of action is to use less and throw away less before it has to be carried away by someone else to somewhere else.
Source: Boston Globe
Most of the stuff we throw out — aluminum cans are an exception — is cheaper to replace from scratch than to recycle. “Cheaper’’ is another way of saying “requires fewer resources.’’ Green evangelists believe that recycling our trash is “good for the planet’’ — that it conserves resources and is more environmentally friendly. But recycling household waste consumes resources, too.
Popular impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, we are not running out of places to dispose of garbage. Not only is US landfill capacity at an all-time high, but all of the country’s rubbish for the next 100 years could comfortably fit into a landfill measuring 10 miles square. Benjamin puts that in perspective: “Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Mont., could handle all of America’s trash for the next century — with 50,000 acres left over for his bison.’’
Extra trucks are required to pick up recyclables, and extra gas to fuel those trucks, and extra drivers to operate them. Collected recyclables have to be sorted, cleaned, and stored in facilities that consume still more fuel and manpower; then they have to be transported somewhere for post-consumer processing and manufacturing. Add up all the energy, time, emissions, supplies, water, space, and mental and physical labor involved, and mandatory recycling turns out to be largely unsustainable — an environmental burden, not a boon.
“Far from saving resources,’’ Benjamin writes, “curbside recycling typically wastes resources — resources that could be used productively elsewhere in society.’’