"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

Recycling is Bullshit

There are long tracts of glass in the Sahara, caused by meteorites skidding across the sand and melting it. Glass looks pretty and feels precious, but sand does not, and this is perhaps part of the reason why people perceive glass recycling to be a valuable exercise – something that is debatable at best.

I am actively against recycling non-metals, because I think it does nothing to aid consuming less, and may actually exacerbate the problem. In other words, I think it creates a net damage to the environment. It would be better that people had to pay directly for the removal trash which scrap merchants wouldn’t pay them for and for these people to be non-subsidized.

Showing up in a car to the bottle bank with Perrier bottles reminds me of Roman schoolboys who had slaves who would take a proxy beating for them when they did something wrong. Both are dubious ways of avoiding blame.

Recycling is about preventing people digging something out of the ground and burning fuel to make something from it. If it were truly viable, then people would be ransacking landfills to recycle them.

Reuse yes, recycle no. Penn and Teller make the point better than I ever could.

business, comedy

12 comments on “Recycling is Bullshit

  1. Jim Nachlin says:

    Recycling, and “garbage” in general, are widely misunderstood, and reducing of solid waste production is certainly better than recycling. Still, Dave, I’m surprised at you for posting this. It’s full of misinformation. Just because recycling plastic is partially b.s. does not mean that recycling is b.s.

    Recycling is subsidized? That subsidy is nothing compared to the subsidy for raw materials production.

    Eliminate subsidies and tax breaks to the timber industry, and you’ll be able to sell that paper you recycle, or the city will be able to sell it at a profit to a recycler. You’ll also be using less of it, because it will cost more. What does the Competitive Enterprise Institute say about that?

    As for having people pay for rubbish collection, I’m all for it, in theory. In practice, I know what will happen. Hidden illegal dumps in rural areas, and streets full of trash in poor urban areas. Reducing consumption is a much better idea.

    Commodity prices are going up. It takes gas to truck that rubbish to a landfill. If a recycler will buy a ton of plastic bottles for 2 cents, the city has still saved money.

    Great propaganda, though.

  2. admin says:

    Bah Humbug.

    I don’t like the fact that recycling means re-manufacture. I’m all for using things again – that seems to be genuine recycling (particularly if its bicycles, like the ones that Jim finds, since there is a great pun).

    But reducing things to dust and re-constituting them into something new is what will inevitably happen to all things whether we recycle them or not. If it is done for a questionable energy benefit that makes people feel ok about buying more crap then its pointless.

    Like I said – metal re-use makes sense, but glass and plastic no – and I use as little paper as possible – single ply.

    Anyway, I’m feeling like I need to vent about hypocritical greenwashing.

  3. Les says:

    I think the three priorities should be:

    1. Reduce the amount of waste and pollutants to begin with
    2. Reuse
    3. Recycle

    Of course, we seem to have gotten it backwards, especially in the states, where we seem to be generating more and more waste every day, so we can have more and more to recycle. As far as reusing things go, I still buy all my clothes at the Goodwill, or reuse old cardboard boxes when I have to mail a package to someone, and engage in other such practices, but unfortunately, I can’t walk into the local grocery store with an old glass bottle and say “Fill ‘er up with some olive–extra virgin! (Damn! There’s that word virgin again!)

  4. Jim Nachlin says:

    Recycling as it’s currently practiced and especially as it’s perceived is full of humbug, sure. As is the idea that it should be profitable. The bottom line is that municipal glass and plastic recycling makes sense if instead of paying N dollars to cart that particular segment of the solid waste stream, the city pays less than N.

    This TV show is also full of humbug. Here are some propaganda warning signals:

    1. Stating that a city service should be discontinued because it is not profitable (are the police profitable?)
    2. Use of the “slippery slope” fallacy
    3. Emphasizing the high budgets of environmentalists, especially without comparing those budgets to those of the groups (manufacturing lobby) the environmentalists are fighting. (“Cui Bono” is a fallacious way to discount an argument anyway.)

    I could go on for days about how this program is hogwash.

  5. Anon says:

    Re-use and cutting down on waste to begin with is infinitely more important than recycling, especially in the current ‘disposable living’ climate. Prices may be rising on food and fuel, but cheap stores still exist, selling cheap tat like batteries which only last for 5 minutes before giving up,or clothes which are made and sold so cheaply ( hurrah child labour!) that one would be more likely to buy a replacement in a different style than to wash and iron the old one.

    Not to mention the trend of replacing ones old mobile phone the minute one with a slightly better feature set comes out. Its the technological equivalent of drowning your puppy because its not cute anymore.

    I’m not saying there should be a total stop to all consumerism, and we should build big trash mountains in our backyards of hoarded trash- more that we should be aware that its helped raise an entire generation of people with negative attitudes when it comes to re-using and repairing.

    Recycling is just another method of disposal, wether you think its a good thing or not- its still shirking the responsibility of not cutting down in the first place.

  6. admin says:

    @Jim Agreed the program is full of holes. But its funny and contrarian and they are good atheists, so unfortunately I am unable to asses it rationally.

    @ never understood how anything could be extra-virgin, either.

  7. Les says:

    yeah, “extra-virgin”–the mind boggles. i think anon made the most telling point, namely that the recycling craze is actually part of the disposable, hyper-consumerist lifestyle most people live (or at least want to), and as such, it should be treated much more critically than it is. as to the program, or rather, it’s presenters, they seem to have a strong libertarian “free-market” streak, and act as if as all regulatory mechanisms are always bad, which, in an era of increasing deregulation (not to mention de-funding of public programs), is, frankly, bullshit, to use their own term. but, as they also are quick to point out, hey, they’re just las vegas entertainers.

  8. Lloyd says:

    This is very good. ‘Recycling’ has been a very clever corporate hoax to keep people, who might otherwise have cut back, in full consumer mode. What’s really odious about it is that it allows people who are being wasteful to feel smug and superior to those who don’t waste their time.

    It’s the same with ethanol: If it was rational and cost-effective, the gov’t would not have to subsidize it and mandate its use. And, as is the case with ethanol (and b.s. like T. Boone Pickens’ plan), our deluding ourselves that by recycling we’re doing all that needs to be done leaves us blind to, and unprepared for, more serious realities. I suppose that’s the psychological payoff.

    Nice site, by the way. I didn’t know the ’36 Berlin olympics were televized.

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  12. TunaDiver says:

    There only needs to be one huge "unGreen" 3 year bloodbath of melting the glass down and making standardized containers that are reusable. After that, no more custom glass containers such as Mrs Butterworths, period.
    And SURELY melting the old plastic and turning it in to containers is more feasible than making new ones from scratch from raw crude oil.
    What fuels the fires to do this melting? You tell me. But I say go motherfucking Nuclear with electricity, and use Nuclear fired power-plants to provide the electricity to giant electric ovens, or Natural Gas as long as it holds out.

    And by-fuck we've gotta start using hard water nuclear fusion power-plants like Canada. The days where our politicians get their cocks sucked and in turn award Security Contracts to motherfuckers that get payed billions of $buck$ to do refined uranium are fucking over! No more unfeasible expensive soft water fusion Nuclear power-plants, whose construction is only testament to the likes of Bill Clinton getting his cock sucked.

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