American Elephants


Do You Recycle? Why? Does It Make You Feel Noble? by The Elephant's Child

Surely, if you live in a city in the United States, you recycle. If you are rural, or live in a small town, you are excused. I am suburban, and have 3 cans, one for yard waste, one for plain old garbage, and one for recycling. But there are rules. My Krups coffeemaker quit, but I cannot put it in the garbage, but must take it to a electronics recycling event, fortunately, this coming weekend. Batteries and lightbulbs go somewhere else. They aren’t supposed to go in the garbage either.

I pay a monthly bill for the privilege of recycling the yard waste, which the city turns into compost, which I then have the privilege of buying back for the garden. In neighboring Seattle, they will inspect your garbage to make sure you are not putting any food scraps in with the recycling or the garbage. If they find you guilty the fine is, I think, $50. Three cans, we get 3 different trucks to pick it all up. But is it worth it?

So — do you look for and buy recycled goods? Are you more likely to buy a product that brags on the percentage of recycled goods in their product? Thought not. And often, recycled goods are more expensive than their counterpart. The most desirable goods look as if they have been recycled. Gray-brown plastic bags, brown recycled paper. What use are recycled goods if they don’t show how admirable you are for buying recycled?

The original idea was that landfills were bad, and we were running out of room, which is absurd. Landfills are carefully constructed so there is no damage to the water table. If I remember correctly there was a famous barge of garbage that traversed the East Coast looking for somewhere, anywhere, that would accept their garbage, proving that landfills were all used up.

Recycled paper goods were supposed to save the trees. Catalog companies bought into a tree-planting scheme, assuring their customers that they would compensate for the tons of paper used by planting x number of trees. But most paper is made from tree farm trees raised specifically for the purpose of being turned into paper.

There are environmental groups that seduce cities with a big dog-and-pony show, and  offer them the chance to join a vast group of cities who are also coping with great masses of garbage. They offer pre-designed programs and expertise, posters and mailers, everything a with-it city might need to start their own program, and the opportunity to meet with other mayors in the club  and schmooze. So the correct position in the culture today is to have the very best recycling program. Sustainability is the au-courant buzz-word.

For anything beyond aluminum cans, it’s probably a waste of time and money. Aluminum cans go right back into making new cans. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of reduced demand overseas, the worldwide recession, the drop in oil prices. I think locally the price we pay to have our yard waste composted, and then buy it back at a cost comparable to brand-name composts, but slightly less, is probably reasonably cost-effective (or they would raise the price).

There is no shortage of landfill space. “All the waste generated  by Americans for the next next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. Landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland,”according to John Tierney, writing in the New York Times.

Many on the Left have confused recycling with morality, rather than politics where it accurately belongs, and environmentalism with a form of religion. They don’t care if it is wasteful, unnecessarily costly, and accomplishes nothing at all. Saving carbon from entering the atmosphere where it would become a fertilizer for plants and help to feed the world is not a useful enterprise. We need more carbon, not less. Environmentalism is essentially a political ploy, designed to bring an end to capitalism and has nothing to do with saving the earth. They were sure the suckers would fall for it.


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