Forced Government Recycling is Garbage; It Wastes Scarce, Valuable Resources and Lowers Our Wealth
From Jeff Jacoby:
"Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal. In 2004, an analysis by New York’s Independent Budget Office concluded, according to The New York Times, that “it cost anywhere from $34 to $48 a ton more to recycle material, than to send it off to landfills or incinerators.’’
“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’
Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.’’
Don Boudreaux responds:
"When materials are worth recycling, markets for their reuse naturally arise. For materials with no natural markets for their reuse, the benefits of recycling are less than its costs – and, therefore, government efforts to promote such recycling waste resources.
Everyday experience should teach us this fact. The benefits of recycling clothing, for example, are large enough to prompt us to buy costly clothes-recycling machines that we routinely use to recycle for tomorrow the clothes we wear today. We call these machines “washers and dryers.” And when American families no longer want their clothing, organizations such as Goodwill come by to gather the discarded garments to recycle them for use by poor people.
People also recycle their homes. The one I own and live in was previously owned by a family who recycled it – which included refurbishing it – rather than simply discarding it when they moved to another town. Many people also drive recycled (“used”) cars, stock their homes with recycled (“antique”) furniture, listen to recycled (“used”) CDs, and read recycled (“used”) books.
Markets promote conservation when it’s worthwhile; government promotes it when it’s wasteful."
MP: Remember that "time" is our most valuable and scarce resource, and that is usually one of the biggest costs of recycling (as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown reminds us in a classic blues song: "My time is expensive, I gotta make it last"); but it almost never gets accounted for in most cost-benefit analyses of recycling.