Tuesday, August 23, 2005

On the subect of Recycling

Ok. Here we go. I don’t recycle. Sorry.

I had a friend over the other day and he was shocked! Shocked that I didn’t have a separate place for him to put the empty bottles of beer that he had drunk while hanging out with me. Years back I had a similar problem with a co-worker who was horrified that I wasn’t separating my work trash and taking the recyclables home with me to deposit in my local program. My girlfriend, a pretty hard core liberal type still feels a bit queasy that we don’t recycle. And today I see on a bunch of Philly blogs how people are upset that Philadelphians recycle program gets only 6% of the recyclables in the city.

Let me just state my case. As a very conscious supporter of protecting the environment and more importantly as a very hard core supporter of doing things that are smart I was originally in favor of recycling. This had to be 10 years ago now. I was all excited to do it, but at the time Philly had no program and there really was no easy way to participate. So I didn’t.

In the interim I started to see reports and stories on tv and in the papers about this new recycling fad. From what I saw, the majority of them talked about the fact that mass recycling was actually more expensive to do and in some cases really didn’t have any positive impact on the environment. I saw video footage of warehouses filled with plastic bottles and heard stories about how nobody would buy the raw recycled goods since it was far cheaper to make the goods from scratch, etc.

I had decided then that the whole deal, while utopian sounding, was really just a waste of my time and my money (as a taxpayer). I decided not to participate and put it out of my mind.

But now I face my friends and family on the issue and I am unarmed. I don’t have the reports to show them or the tv programs (except for a wonderful episode of Bullshit that came out on the subject last year that I probably could get a copy of on DVD).

So I took some time to look around and found a very nice website called EcoWorld that is supported by Greenpeace and number of other environmental groups. Here is their take on recycling, backed up by a nice webpage on the ‘myths’ of recycling.

Recycling is not always the environmentally correct choice. Many items we recycle come from abundant raw materials and are inert and harmless when dumped. It costs more to recycle these than to bury the used and manufacture the new from scratch. Glass is a perfect example; plastic runs a close second. If throwing away glass and plastic causes us to ever run out of sand and oil byproducts we can mine the landfills and recycle them all at once - it would be cheaper and easier than perpetual recycling. There's plenty of land for landfills, there's very little hazard remaining in modern landfills, and the economics and the environment often favor using them. Trillions are squandered on needless recycling.

So. Don’t ask me to recycle ok? Oh.. by the way. I’ve got solar panels on my roof and I bike before I drive. How about you?


Ryan said...

You actually ride a bike??!!! Will wonders ever cease...?

Lingo Slinger said...

We have a really good recycling program in our city, they make it super easy for you to do it by giving you the boxes to put stuff in (Grey Box for cardboard & paper products & Blue Box for bottles, cans etc). They then pick them up on garbage day. We also have a 3 bag limit on garbage, so it kind of "forces" you to recylcle.

Personally i'm impartial to the whole recycling thing. I don't feel bad if I throw some cans in the garbage or use styrofoam... I just do it because I don't wanna have to pay for any extra garbage bags!

I don't think i'd want a smelly mound of compost in my backyard though... That's a bit much!!!

Yael said...

I lost track of where your blog was, after so many moves, and now thanks to your post on Ryan's blog here I am.

I just wanted to say that this recycling issue is very interesting... and thanks for the good link (I was surprised especially that plastic recycling is not necessarily good for the environment).

Your post brought up a thought in my mind: Do you know what the importance of battery recycling is? I have a feeling that it is much more environmentally important than paper recycling and stuff, although it has gotten very little "marketing", or at least its implementation hasn't caught on. I haven't done any research on the issue, but maybe you ran across some info?
Just curious...

trace said...

Hey Yael.. good to see you are doing well and all that.. Do you have a blog? Would be great to hear firsthand how it really is to live where you live. Anyway, there is a whole movement for battery and computer parts recycling, although I know nothing about it. It seems that pc's and monitors and the batteries are really bad in landfills for whatever reason.

That doesn't apply to me since I never get rid of my old pc's. There is a virutal museam of stuff in my basement all the way back to my Vic-20. And the parts I do get rid of are in pc's that I've built and donated to friends.

As for batteries on their own, I nver actually wondered about them. Just thinking right now I wonder if they are bad for the environment. I mean they are just carbon and some acidic chemical right? I'm not sure acid is bad for landfills or not. My guess is that it helps break down othr trash.. but I guess it could pollute ground water. I really don't know...

Yael said...

If I had a blog it would be soooo boring. I'm totally not interesting enough. But you're always welcome to email me!

And to prove how uninteresting I really am:
I think that certain kinds of batteries are pretty harmful if not taken care of properly or recycled (but then again, I also thought plastic was horrible so who knows). Carbon-zinc batteries ("heavy duty") are no longer very popular. As far as I know, alkaline, the most popular consumer small battery, are not so bad, but I know that up until recently they all had mercury in them, which I understand is bad for the environment. I'm also pretty sure that nickel (in the rechargeable batteries) is pretty damn bad. Lead-acid (like car batteries) I don't know... anyway, it was just a thought that came up in my mind... not really that important :)

trace said...

Being a polictical chick I'm more interested in what you think of some of my other posts...

Yael said...

Write more posts then!

Reading archives definitely requires more time than I should be spending at work...

And yes, you can tell I'm more of a technical chick than a political one :)

Felix Staratschek said...

Modern techik can seperate matirials, only biological things and perhaps glas schould have their on box. KRYORECYCLING, created by Dr. Harry Rosin is an important technik for the recycling of many materials. Look to the german page www.total-recycling.org.