Monday, July 02, 2007

Think Globally, Act Irrationally: Recycling 101

One of the sacred tenets of environmentalism is recycling. It is the ultimate ecomyth. Recycling defines green. Everyone knows its good: right? Well, no. What defines garbage is that it is stuff no one wants: it has no value. Hence we pay to have it removed. Garbage is a negative externality: it costs. So minimizing garbage makes economic sense, which is why industry works hard to minimize what it wastes, its pollution, its garbage: anything you have to pay to have removed is a cost.

But municipal recycling, Blue Box and stuff, that's good for the environment isn't it? Does it make money (a resource) or does it cost municipalities money (garbage)? Just what does happen to the recyclable things you put out for collection?

Well the sad truth is it costs a lot of money to collect and to sort. Most is degraded in quality and most is not used -- in most jurisdictions up to 80% or more of recycled material that is collected is sorted and transported, eventually, to the landfill ( or goes straight to the incinerator in those enlightened places that burn garbage and make heat and/or power -- a resource). Some is re-used: but the cost of recycled materials tends to be higher than products produced from raw materials and of inferior quality. Someone has to invest in the plants to produce products from recycled materials: why would a business do this when the raw materials are cheaper and better than those available from recycling?

Garbage is garbage because it has no economic value or is a cost. If a profit can be made by reuse or recycling, then a private enterprise will be formed to make that profit -- we don't need the government to be involved.

If the government is collecting your garbage, then it's a cost. If recycling makes sense (economic sense) then let the private sector organize it, and stop wasting millions (billions?) of taxpayers money on a fraud.

Number one reason garbage is garbage? There's no shortage of new stuff cheaply available to replace the old, broken, worn out stuff that is garbage. Its called wealth.

And last time I looked, wealth was a lot greener environmentally than poverty.