Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

2003-09-28

One mantra of the modern environmental movement is "reduce, reuse, recycle". It's one of those things we just take for granted. Since I'm a contrarian sort of person (some would say an outright curmudgeon), I was fascinated to read Recycling Rubbish: Eight Great Myths About Waste Disposal in the latest issue of the newsletter I receive from PERC. I've listed the eight myths here and have included the reality:

  1. Myth: our garbage will bury us

    Reality: there is more than enough capacity to meet demand

  2. Myth: our garbage will poison us

    Reality: garbage is not by nature hazardous to our health or the environment

  3. Myth: packaging is our problem

    Reality: packaging things in boxes, bottles, and containers reduces the amount of garbage, and packaging has become much lighter over the years

  4. Myth: we must achive trash independence

    Reality: shipping garbage across state or national borders is often the most efficient use of resources

  5. Myth: we squander irreplaceable resources when we don't recycle (in fact, most resources are renewable in the sense that we can always find "as much and as good" -- this applies even to things like oil

  6. Myth: recycling always protects the environment

    Reality: recycling is a manufacturing and distribution process just like any other, and such processes have an environment impact -- often greater than the impact of throwing something away

  7. Myth: recycling saves resources

    Reality: recycling often uses more resources, in the form of energy and material, than simply discarding something

  8. Myth: without forced recycling mandates, there wouldn't be recycling

    Reality: scavenging may be the oldest profession, and many industries and individuals engaged in recycling may before politicians got involved in forced recycling

The complete article is well worth reading for those who like to question their assumptions (those who don't might not want to read this weblog).


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal