We’ve become so accustomed to the mandatory recycling programs in our communities that barely anyone dares question the motivation, the logic and certainly not the cost. As the NJ legislature considers a bottle and can tax for Garden Staters (in political speak: deposit) I thought it would be the perfect time to bring up the subject. The mandatory recycling goes back to the late 1980’s so for many kids today they only know what’s been promoted by the government through aggressive campaigning and yes, propaganda spread through ‘Green Initiatives’ in school on taxpayer funds. Of course to find out why a failed idea (speaking specifically to government programs) is so widely implemented and praised all ya gotta do is #FollowTheMoney…
There are typically four reasons brought up to defend the practice which is in just about every community and county across New Jersey.
- First, ‘we’re running out of landfill space’;
- Second, it’s cleaner for the environment;
- Third, there’s a market for it and it’s saving space in the landfills
- Fourth, ‘It’s cheaper to use recycled materials rather than new raw materials’
As far as landfill space, wait for it, we are simply not running out. That’s right, not running out. As a matter of fact the often cited stat by the forces of mandatory recycling use an EPA report that showed in fact the NUMBER of landfills was decreasing. What they failed to show is that the CAPACITY of the landfills was actually increasing. The report comes from a Yale study using the EPA’s own numbers:
Previous studies have suggested that the EPA underestimated waste disposal in the United States, but the new Yale study’s findings represent the most accurate estimate to date, the researchers said, due to the landfill facility-level data sets used. Powell said the vast majority of landfills have certified scales for weighing garbage, and his data source factored in multiple levels of quality assurance, allowing for a degree of accuracy that was previously unachievable.
“I feel that it’s a superior number to previous estimates, and the key is that we can use our method every year going forward to more accurately track our progress towards more sustainable materials management,” Powell said.
The authors determined that the average landfill has about 33 years of capacity remaining, but their data showed that nationwide disposal capacity is growing.
The study is from 1,200 operating municipal landfills around the US. The number and capacity gets even bigger when you factor in private landfills. Thirty-Three years of capacity. With plenty of space in the wide open west to create new waste management entrepreneurs.
LANDFILLS ARE BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
How about creating cleaner sources of energy? The ability to generate methane gas used for natural gas fuel from closed landfills is happening right now..
Did you know that major firms like Waste Management are able to convert the methane produced by garbage in landfills in order to offset the use of coal in the production of electricity?
Using landfills, we produce over 550 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power more than 440,000 homes. This amount of energy is equivalent to offsetting over 2.2 million tons of coal per year.
One study conducted by the PA Environmental hearing board concluded that even the risk of cancer from trash incinerators was lower than the risk posed to a child os getting cancer from eating one peanut butter sandwich every day for 15 years. Given the safe modern technology of landfills we have options that far exceed the so-called benefits of recycling. Actually, there is hazardous waste created from the paper recycling process which accounts for huge portion of today’s recycling.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board recently put the negligible risk posed by modern waste incinerators into perspective when it noted that “the risk of a child contracting cancer from eating one peanut butter sandwich per month for 15 years is approximately 500 times greater than the risk of contracting cancer” from the emissions of an incinerator that is being considered by Drava County, Pa.
Contrary to popular belief, recycling is not risk-free. Most recycling processes generate large amounts of hazardous waste. In the final analysis, what’s more worrisome – old newspapers buried in the ground, or the toxic sludge generated in the process of de-inking them for recycling?
THE PROBLEM IS THE BLUE (OR YELLOW) BIN!
So you’ve been told that as long as you put that bottle in a blue bin (mine are yellow) the discard glass won’t end up in a landfill. Well…that’s not entirely true. Did you know that a third of glass designated for recycling is actually sent to landfills? And there’s a bigger issue with contamination of the bins intended to collect the bottles? Given how disgusting our yellow bin looks after more than a decade of use, we didn;t need a study to know to wash your hands after taking it to the curb.
Today, more than a third of all glass sent to recycling facilities ends up crushed. It is trucked to landfills as daily cover to bury the smell and trap gases. The rest has almost no value to recyclers and can often cost them to haul away.
In recent years, the problem of contamination has spread beyond glass. The problem was exacerbated when municipalities began increasing the size of bins, believing that bigger was better to keep more material from landfills.
Consumers have indeed been filling the bigger bins, but often with as much garbage as recyclable material.
So it’s actually cheaper to produce a new plastic bottle . Turns out that it’s actually cheaper to use new oil to produce new plastic bottles than it is to use recycled material. And it’s safer! Here’s a little excerpt from a study done by the folks at MIT:
There are two problems to be solved when recycling plastic, Gutowski says: “Generating a pure stream of recycled material, and making sure there is sufficient residual value in it.” PET plastic does have residual value; it can be recycled into everything from fleece clothing to new containers. But, Gutowski says, “there are complications involved in isolating the material to be recycled,” depending upon the product you’re trying to recycle and the waste mixed in with the PET.
There are often lots of additives in plastic products, such as reinforcements, fillers, and colorants. Recycling companies don’t usually know what, exactly, they are getting, and in general, different kinds of plastic cannot be combined in manufacturing a recycled product. For example, very small amounts of PVC can significantly degrade PET. Sorting and separating out the recyclable material is labor-intensive and expensive. “When you compare that with pumping oil out of the ground, using its established production and distribution system, it’s hard for recycling to compete,” Gutowski says. “From the manufacturers’ point of view, oil’s a safer bet.”
And another conducted by some credible economists from the Mises Institute.
Overall, curbside recycling’s costs run between 35 percent and 55 percent more than other recycling methods, because it uses huge amounts of capital and labor per pound of material recycled. Recycling itself uses three times more resources than does depositing waste in landfills.
The largest US organization dedicated to recycling just found out how difficult this chosen path can be. The final death knell for the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) appeared to ring earlier this year when the organization announced it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The NRC ceased operations and terminated all staff members at the close of business on September 4, shortly after an attempt to merge with Keep America Beautiful failed. NRC is now trying to avoid bankruptcy by reorganization.
My conclusion is that if we throw out the myth of landfill space and embrace the creation of clean energy from trash that’s enough to curb the mandatory recycling programs across the nation. It’s time to apply commonsense. We can’t expect that the average person worried about their car payment, mortgage and education debt to pay attention to this but should we expect at least a little research on the part of the politicians spending our money and making the rules?