Well, since ya’ asked… :wink: There are some good arguments to be made for recycling plastic. It’s a petroleum-based product (bad) and does not break down quickly in a landfill (also bad). But again there’s the issue of how much energy it takes and how much pollution is generated by the recycling process. Yes, it takes more energy to recycle a plastic bottle than it does to make a new one and you end up with a lower-quality product. Since different plastics have to be handled in different ways, someone has to sort them (most likely paid for by the $8 billion annual federal subsidy for recycling) then they have to be washed before recycling begins. Then consider that curbside recycling requires a second truck, not just the one that picks up your garbage, to come to your house. Twice the fuel consumption, twice the pollution. As you might guess by now, I also do not recycle plastic.
Some of the same arguments can be made for glass. At least it’s not a petroleum product, but sorting, washing, more energy consumption, more pollution, all those arguments apply here too.
The one thing that DOES recycle efficiently is aluminum. It’s cheaper and more energy-efficient to recycle aluminum than it is to mine bauxite to make new aluminum. That’s why Alcoa and many other companies will pay good money for your scrap aluminum. When it makes sense to recycle paper or plastic, someone somewhere will be willing to pay for your waste paper and plastic.
Now, go back up to that dollar sign and think about this. That’s eight billion a year of your money to subsidize the recycling industry. How many teachers, firefighters, health inspectors, etc. could you hire with that kind of money? General Motors is having some financial troubles. How about if the feds just hand them 8 billion of your dollars to prop up a business that can’t support itself? Yes, there are roundabout ways of doing that, tax breaks and whatnot, that GM is getting, but we’re talking here about another industry that cannot support itself so the federal government GIVES IT EIGHT BILLION FREAKIN’ DOLLARS A YEAR. Of course we also spend something like 300 billion paying farmers to grow crops for which there is little or no demand, but that’s another argument for another day. (Buy local!)
But hey, don’t take my word on any of this. I’m just a nut with an internet connection. Daniel Benjamin, on the other hand, is a professor at Clemson and a senior associate at the Property & Environment Research Center. You can read his “Eight Great Myths About Waste Disposal” here: http://www.perc.org/perc.php?subsection=5&id=224