Recycling for Recycling's Sake: A Waste of Time and Money

By Chilton, Kenneth; Lis, James | USA TODAY, May 1993 | Go to article overview

Recycling for Recycling's Sake: A Waste of Time and Money


Chilton, Kenneth, Lis, James, USA TODAY


Managing waste is a noble concept, but, considering the lack of markets for recovered materials, it doesn't make for effective environmental policy or good economic sense.

IF THE CENTRAL objective of municipal solid waste management is to protect public health and welfare while effectively dealing with the volumes of solid waste generated by American society, it is fundamental to do so using the most cost-effective means available. Policymakers at all levels of government, however, are dismissing cost-effectiveness considerations by adopting recycling as the only acceptable means for managing municipal solid waste (MSW). Indeed, nearly all recently enacted or proposed MSW legislation promotes recycling as the preferred option for managing trash. Siting new landfills or incinerators is considered unacceptable policy.

By ruling out solid waste management practices capable of handling large volumes of waste in an economical manner--landfilling and incineration--elected officials are increasing the likelihood of a real capacity crunch. For example, if California were to increase its present recycling rate of 12% to 50% overnight, it would deplete its existing landfill capacity in 2008, rather than 1999, as is projected using the current recycling rate.

A 1992 Congressional Research Service study estimates the current national recycling rate to be between 15 and 20% and that 20% of America's waste now is being incinerated. Currently, landfills handle 60-65% of the nation's trash. The proportion of municipal solid waste being managed by recycling, incineration, and landfilling suggests something about the over-all relative cost-effectiveness of these management methods. Nonetheless, all levels of government are pursuing recycling as a panacea for America's garbage woes.

State and Federal policymakers can not be blamed entirely for their bias toward recycling. The direction of governmental policy is dependent, in large measure, on public perception. In the area of solid waste management, misconceptions of the risks associated with disposal methods and the perception that recycling always is an environmentally friendly process hamper the development of cost-effective policy. Rather than face the public's opposition to siting new waste treatment plants, Federal, state, and local officials have jumped on the recycling bandwagon.

Nearly every state is attempting to force the marketplace to increase recycling rates of various "post-consumer" materials. To this end, state and local packaging and product bans flourish, and optimistic recycling mandates are legislated in statehouse after statehouse. Each state has its own interpretation of how to define and reach desired recycling rates. In California, 25% of the waste stream must be diverted from disposal facilities by Jan. 1, 1995, with a five percent increase each year, reaching 50% by Jan. 1, 2000. A maximum of 10% of this diversion may be waste-to-energy.

Illinois requires waste districts to reduce, recycle, and collect at least three different categories of materials and to collect and compost yard waste separately from household trash. To the extent feasible, waste districts' plans must be designed to recycle 15% of the waste stream by 1994 and 25% by 1996.

Some states do not require a fixed percentage reduction in the waste stream as a result of recycling, but, instead, mandate a given percentage of source-separation and collection. Nine states and the District of Columbia have set minimum recycled-content requirements for products and packaging. Of the nine having minimum content laws, one or more of these policies cover telephone directories, trash bags, fiberglass, other paper products, and glass and plastic containers.

Newspaper publishers are the primary targets of state recycled-content requirements in all nine states and D.C., ranging from 7.5 to 50% (eight of the 10 areas' requirements are 40% or greater). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Recycling for Recycling's Sake: A Waste of Time and Money
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.