Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why I hate recycling

I've been called a "raging tree hugger" and I took it as a compliment. I would certainly consider myself an environmentalist and I feel that recycling is one of the greatest disservices to the environmental movement.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I recycle and I think that recycling is important. I also think that recycling is an easy cop-out for over consumption. I hear it all the time, "Print as many copies of that as you want, you can always recycle it", or "I go through 3 or 4 plastic bottles a day, but I make sure to recycle all of them".

People don't seem to understand that the paper or bottles that they use were produced at least hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. It pumps exhaust into the air to get them to the consumer. When you use more of the stuff, even if you recycle it, that means more exhaust being pumped into the atmosphere to transport stuff.

We also don't seem to realize that plastic and paper don't exactly grow on trees. Well, the paper sort of does grow on trees, but that is beside the point. The processing to produce paper and plastic produces a lot of pollution. When we recycle the paper or plastic it may save us from having to produce more from scratch, but it still requires polluting remanufacturing and processing. It's not like they rinse out the old water bottles and refill them. They melt the plastic (burn lots of fuel and pump lots of exhaust into the atmosphere) and reform the bottles.

Of course I recognize that recycling is better than contributing to landfills. The problem that I have is that recycling makes people feel like they are environmental. It makes people feel like they are doing the right thing, when in reality they are hardly going through the movements.

Do you know the little triangle recycling symbol? Did you know that each arrow that is a corner of the triangle represents something? Did you know that the meaning comes in order of importance? So here it is: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Unfortunately we seem to follow the environmental slogan of "massively over consume and then recycle to help yourself feel better about yourself."

It makes me wonder what it will take to wean people from the disposable water bottle. What if someone were to create a device where water would be delivered to your lips, free of charge at the touch of a button? I would guess that people would use them to spit in.

Sorry about my rant. I seem to have some pent up opinion that needed to be shared. I'm going to go watch "Food, Inc." now. You'll never be able to guess what my next rant will be about.


Earl said...

I've always wondered about the yield of recyclables. What percentage of the stuff I put in the blue bin actually goes into a recycled product? I'm sure that a lot of what goes in the bin isn't in a useful state, and there's got to be some loss in the system.

Emily A. W. said...

I agree whole heartedly. Good points and it makes me happy that you are voicing your opinion about these things.

Gail said...

I think this would be a great PDSA on how we can radically change how our YMCA reduces, reuses and recycles. Just in your spare work time, of course!