When I was a little lad I remember my Dad getting his beer and my coke from a Beer & Soda distributor in glass bottles that were returned to the distributor when empty and then reused by the beverage company. Seemed like a fair deal at the time, reuse a container over and over again, no muss, no fuss, no recycle container needed, just take it back where you bought it. Heck, to earn extra money and the value of working for that money I collected old newspapers, metal, even rags and took them to the local junk yard (these places weren’t called recycling centers yet), where my offerings were weighed and I received some cash for my labor. Again no muss, a little fuss and no recycle container needed. Somehow all that environmental mindset changed when corporations and government decided to force people and waste companies to do the recycling, corporations originally did as part of everyday business. What exactly has the recycling effort done for Mother Earth since corporate and government entities forced recycling onto the populace? Well the answer is actually quite surprising and in my view ironic.
Take recycled paper for instance. I have worked in computer rooms for over 40 years and in the old days of mainframe computers many data centers had print rooms which created reports from the numbers the computers crunched. When a company attempted to save money by using recycled paper, lets just say there was quite a bit of colorful metaphors uttered by me and my co-workers. The recycled paper was thin, very thin and very prone to cause paper jams. The paper also tore too easily and all in all was one pain in the you know what to use. In modern times Penn & Teller did a show on Showtime that basically chronicled the travels of paper from recycle bin to recycle center back to consumer. Basically if I remember correctly colorful ads on recycled paper were produced by environmentally conscious advertising companies and mailed to people in communities that forced citizens to recycle. The citizen more times than not throws the colorful ad made of recycled paper into the recycle bin and the paper is picked up on trash day. The colorful paper is delivered to a recycling center and recycled into colorful paper again, resold to an environmentally conscious ad company who creates ads that are mailed to citizens where recycling is enforced and well you get the idea. The recycled paper is recycled, again, again and again…….. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, you name it and the recycled item is recycled again and again and attains a kind of recycled immortality.
Some enviro-nazi might say “but we’re saving trees by recycling that paper”. My reply after researching that comment would be “er, no we’re not really saving trees by recycling paper because trees are now planted that are used specifically for making paper”. Almost 90+% of our paper comes from virgin pulp produced by tree farms. Plastic bottle recycling actually takes more energy to produce a recycled bottle than it does to produce a new plastic bottle. Strange but true. Ironic? Yes, yes it is. As a matter of fact the only recycling that seems to be working is recycling aluminum and metal cans. That recycling actually saves energy and resources. Apparently another ironic stat concerns the fact 40% of items placed in recycle bins by citizens ends up in landfills anyway because the market for recycled products is actually small. So Penn & Teller are probably correct in pointing out that the same recycled items are constantly recycled over and over again.
Oh, that 40% of recycled items that end up in landfills also ends up in landfills because it costs as much as 3 times more to recycle those items than just bury them in a landfill. Sanitation costs average 50 to 60 dollars a ton for someone to pickup your trash and bury it in a landfill. To pickup and recycle that trash would cost approximately 150 dollars a ton. So basically the recycle business is not cost-effective. The higher cost is based on transportation, sorting, cleaning and recycling the item for reuse.
So in summary, recycling might feel good. Recycling might offer a few benefits for our planet, but all in all recycling just isn’t the answer that enviro-nazis want us to believe it is. Yep, recycling is just another feel good program and like many feel good programs it offers little return on the investment of time, money and effort.
The views expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. These opinions and observations are based on what I know, research and have experienced.