The Raleigh News & Observer has done an outstanding public service with its article titled “Is Recycling Worth It? We Dove into Recycling in Raleigh and This Is What We Learned.” It explains in detail what happens to goods that are put into the curbside recycling bin and suggests ways the public can recycle difficult items (such as batteries, textiles, and plastic bags).
What it doesn’t do is answer the question in its title—is recycling worth it? I’m pleased to see that at least two commenters on the story raised that point.
So how much are we spending on recycling—how much more than if we simply put unwanted materials into a landfill? Probably quite a bit. Years ago Daniel Benjamin wrote a paper for PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center) that pointed out all the extra costs. I don’t think things have changed much. Furthermore, as I wrote on this blog in 2020, a Gonzaga University economist calculated what would be needed to hold all this nation’s waste for 100 years: a landfill forty-four miles square and 120 feet deep. That’s it!
Image by Nareeta Martin for Unsplash.com.
1 thought on “Is Recycling Worth It? Let’s At Least Address the Question”
Scrap metal collectors, who sell to commercial iron recyclers. regularly collect in my neighborhood; there are cloth collection boxes at shopping centers; and people used to pick up soda cans everywhere. If we stopped these wasteful, expensive government recycling programs, opportunities for recycling would increase. (BTW, governments or their contractors don’t actually recycle most of this stuff–it is piling up. The compost bin above caught my attention: Austin TX has a big composting program. I saw the mountains of compost piling up near the airport–which had to close when the piles of stuff spontaneously combusted, creating intolerable air pollution.)