Friday, January 02, 2004

Garbage: Dennis Avery, writing for the Hudson Institute, gives some simple figures on recycling:
Franklin Associates, which consults for EPA, says extensive recycling is 35 percent more expensive than conventional disposal, and curbside recycling is 55 percent more expensive. In other words, recycling takes more resources than landfilling.

Why did people promote recycling so heavily in the first place? Lots of people probably misunderstood the costs and benefits. It’s also true that eco-activists urgently wanted everybody to feel a direct stake in saving the planet. Telling us all to recycle was their way to make us feel eco-involved.

Today, however, when environmental concern is near-universal and conservation techniques are far better, we don’t need “phony” recycling campaigns.

Recycling has become a peeve of mine lately. When I take out our garbage, I'm faced with a dumpster and a handful of containers for sorting. If someone could produce the figures that prove the value of recycling, I'd likely be more compliant (if not exactly happy). But the only research I see indicates that recycling is a wasteful, starry-eyed program that ignores basic economic principles for what amounts to the tree-hugger's version of a cheap thrill -- but not as cheap.

As the Cato Institute concluded:

Modern landfills are both an environmentally sound and a cost effective means of disposing of municipal solid waste. A certain amount of recycling is also desirable, and a rational societal goal is the achievement of the right balance between these and other methods of solid waste management. However, the political difficulties attendant to the landfilling alternative have thrust public policies headlong toward a massive and costly national recycling effort. There is ample evidence that recycling is being pushed beyond the economically efficient level as a result not only ofthe siting problem but also because of misperceptions of the environmental impact of landfills, overestimation of the benefits of recycling, and underestimation of the real costs of recycling which importantly include household time and effort.
Open up the dumpster for municipal recycling programs.

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