Recycling is Garbage, Part II
More on recycling from Jeff Jacoby (see previous post here):
"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.
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.
Recycling makes many people feel good, but feelings are not the best test of environmental soundness. When it makes more sense to recycle than to throw something away; government compulsion isn’t needed (Don Boudreaux reminds us that "The benefits of recycling clothing 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 recycling is a profligate use of natural and human resources, government mandates can’t change the fact. Big Brother can force you to recycle your garbage, but that doesn’t make garbage-recycling green."