Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Recycling: Help the economy, environment

Recycling has gotten a dirty rap as of late.   And it’s not just greedy, anti-environmentalist aluminum and timber executives trying to make a buck and screw over the environment while they’re at it.

Environmentalists, politicians, climate change activists and the E.P.A. have all begun to question the merits of recycling.

And it’s true: recycling isn’t perfect. Most of the current curbside recycling systems in place lose money, and many, even after the profits from recycled products, still end up more expensive than if the mass had just been sent to a landfill.   And it’s also true that the huge, idling recycling trucks and the hundreds of miles the tons of recyclables are shipped to be processed (Walla Walla sends most of its recyclables to Portland) leaves behind a sizable carbon footprint.   But is recycling really garbage?

Not in the least.

Recycling programs were not set up with the intention of being profitable.   Just like trash collection, street cleaning and public parks aren’t intended to be profitable.   Recycling is a public service.

Frustrated city officials and environmentalists feel that energy and fossil fuels devoted to recycling could be saved by simply cutting recycling programs.   In our climate change-obsessed culture, this viewpoint fails to take into account the benefits of recycling outside of the climate change bubble.

Recycling reduces the need for further mining, refining, processing and packaging.     It cuts down our reliance on foreign resources.   It makes us think about the objects we use and where they go.   It decreases the need for landfills and the subsequent methane production associated with landfills.

Recycling can be both environmentally and economically beneficial.   Recycling is the right thing to do.
Recycling also has inherent ethical value.   While many recycling programs remain dysfunctional, this does not mean recycling is inherently bad or that recycling programs should be cut.   Recycling teaches the value of limiting consumption and forces people to take responsibility for what they use.

Recycling also can be economically beneficial.   According to E.P.A. Director of Solid Waste Michael Shapiro, recycling programs cost between $50 and $150 per ton while trash programs cost between $70 and $200 per ton.   While there’s room for improvement, the argument that money spent on recycling is wasted has little merit.

The demand for post-consumer paper and aluminum has risen over the past decade and will only continue to do so as resources become scarcer and education about responsible natural resource allocation increases.   As popularity for recycled goods increases, so too will recycling become more economically viable.

Critics of recycling look at a troubled system and believe recycling should be aborted in the name of greater economic and environmental good.   While this questioning of the status quo is indeed valuable, it should result in an improved and reformed recycling system, not a complete abandonment of recycling.

We need to tackle the problems of excess in everything from packaging to consumer mentality. We need to look at ways we can expand recycling beyond just paper and cans to cars and clothes. We need to invest in programs like Germany’s Green Dot program, which makes producers responsible for the recyclability of their product and packaging.   We need to cut subsidies to extractors so that using post-consumer materials will be economically beneficial.   We need to encourage more recycling so that expensive recycling plants will be better utilized and require less transportation.

Recycling provides us with the opportunity for a limitless future, and we should embrace it as the present instead of delegating it to the past.

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