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The Five Reasons Why I Recycle

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My wife and I have been pretty big recyclers for quite some time now and occasionally people have asked me why I prefer to recycle so much. I’m not an adamant recycler, where I frown on those who don’t and make them feel bad (though I think those who don’t recycle out of laziness are selfish), but I think it’s one of the simplest things you can do to have a positive impact on the world and our civilization.

Here are the five biggest reasons why I recycle:

Smaller Bags of Garbage

The number one reason I recycle is because I think garbage is pretty disgusting. I don’t react with horror when I have to open up the trash can, tie up the bag, and bring it to the curb but I think everyone will agree that it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s not hard to imagine the revolting smells and the army of flies that make it their home in the summer time and so I do whatever I can do reduce the size of that bag. Recycling is remarkably clean – it’s bottles, cans, and paper. So rather than a really full bag reeking of rotting meat and refuse (we compost fruit and vegetable waste), we have a moderately full bag and a bin of recycle-able material.

It’s Not That Hard

The second reason I recycle is that it really isn’t that difficult. I have to hold onto a plastic bottle or hold onto a soda can for a few minutes longer until I can find a recycling bin or until I go home. When you consider the impact it can have, it’s a no brainer to do it. Unfortunately, many people simply don’t remember that it’s an option but hopefully that will change. For the few that genuinely don’t really care, there’s not much you can do to convince them because that’s simply their personality (and their prerogative).

Recycling Trumps Remaking Any Day

For the longest time people would argue that recycling doesn’t work. It’s expensive to recollect and reprocess and the energy used in that process is just as bad as making the material from scratch – a totally bogus myth that’s been dedunked many times over. While it does cost energy to process recycling, you can’t tell me it’s better to toss it in a landfill and mine for more raw materials! That just doesn’t make any logical sense! (here are some myths debunked)

Recycling Saves Me Money

Recycling saves me money because it costs my county less to have it hauled away (in fact, recycling earns money for the county). That means the cost of hauling trash is lowered (or at least it won’t rise as quickly) and that helps my wallet. We’re also lucky to live in an area that is very pro-environment – the county recently instituted single stream recycling (we put everything in one bin) and gave out free recycling bins to everyone.

Who Wants To Live Near This?

Landfill

Me neither, that’s why I recycle. :)

(Photo: dnorman)

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19 Responses to “The Five Reasons Why I Recycle”

  1. tom says:

    I also am a recycler, but you are lucky to have recycling offered to you by your county.

    Unfortunately, I have to pay to recycle.

    We do put out way more recycling than garbage each week which is a very good thing.

  2. Bur.gr says:

    Hey Jim,

    Excellent post! Recycling really is painless. Living in NYC, everyone is required to recycle, wish more places were like that. Now if they could only stop the people who rummage through the recycling in search of bottles and cans w/ deposits on them :-)

    -Bur.gr

  3. tom says:

    @Bur.gr,

    That’s the beauty of the deposit, nothing gets thrown away! Have you ever noticed, driving through a no-deposit state that there are bottles and cans littering the highways? No chance for that in a deposit state!

  4. jim says:

    What’s the argument against having all states having a deposit? They don’t want the infrastructure? I think it’d be great.

  5. Bur.gr says:

    @tom – If only they had deposits on chip bags and fast food containers :-)

    @jim – It would be a great idea. Some may argue that it would be an extra burden on the gov’t to collect and account for the deposits. But, they already have the infrastructure there in order to collect sales tax. If only they would look at in in terms of the deposits being “float”, investing it and collecting interest until it is paid back out…

  6. JimmyDaGeek says:

    As you noted, for people that don’t care, recycling is very, very hard. So hard, that our city had to go to higher cost, single-stream recycling to get higher participation. Of course, it doesn’t help that a large number of inhabitants are low-income renters who’s consumption lifestyle is completely opposite of a recycler.

    You mentioned that you compost, too. Congratulations! I wonder how many so-called greens bother to do that or even try vermiculture.

  7. Yay for recycling! I worked as the recycling administrator for my college this summer, so I’m well versed in the benefits of recycling. The one thing I wish I could communicate better is how much the recycling program saves the school. People on my campus simply don’t realize that when they throw away something that should have been recycled, it actually costs them money out of their tuition!

    That’s likely true for many people’s workplaces as well, now that I think about it.

  8. Glenn Lasher says:

    All you have to do is drive around Albany County in upstate New York a little bit to get why recycling is important. Let me point out three landmarks.

    1. The Albany City Dump. It is located along Washington Avenue Extension and Rapp Road, and is highly visible right near the Albany exit of the New York Thruway. Here, have a look. Unfortunately, Street View doesn’t give the view of it I see every time I come out of Crossgates Mall from the back exit. You see a mountain of garbage with a backhoe sitting on top of it. It has been encroaching on a nearby nature preserve for years.

    2. The Cohoes City dump, loacated along route 9. This one you can see with Street View. Those first two rolling hills on the left are made of garbage.

    3. The former Albany City dump, located at McCarty Ave and Hoffman Ave. No longer a dump, there is now a neighourhood built on top of it. When I was in high school, I read in the newspaper about a guy who got up one morning, put two slices of bread in his toaster, pushed down the lever and blew the walls off of his home. He lived in that neighbourhood, and the methane gas leaching up from a century of garbage buried beneath him collected in his home. His injuries, thankfully, were superficial. That neighbourhood is now littered with methane vents to prevent a recurrence. Here is a view of that neighbourhood.

    However, the main reason I recycle is that my grandfather’s farm was chosen (and, through activism, unchosen) as a place that the Town of Bethlehem wanted to take by imminent domain as the new dump. As such, it’s personal.

    • Chris says:

      It’s not the Cohoes City dump. It’s the Colonie Landfill and I wish they would keep it a bit cleaner. I agree though, recycling is always a good thing and I do it whenever I can.

  9. Stacey says:

    While we love our little recycling bins for glass and plastic, we’re having problems recycling cardboard. Is anyone else having this problem?

    Apparently in Pennsylvania, the recycling centers are now charging you to drop off cardboard – about $25 per ton. It’s crazy, because my husband’s business generates about 2 tons of cardboard per week. $200 to recycle?

    We haven’t come up with any solutions yet. He wants to burn it, but I find that equal to tossing it in the trash.

  10. jim says:

    Why not recycle it and integrate that into the cost of your husband’s business’ operating budget?

  11. Michael says:

    Great article! Not too long ago, I shared in your beliefs. I would like to offer a different perspective, particularly from the financial side of the discussion…

    After years of wasting valuable time, money, facility space and other resources, our company initiated a ZERO-RECYCLING policy earlier this year. In each of our six of our plant locations, we eliminated all indoor recycling receptacles in our offices and on our manufacturing lines. All outdoor industrial recycling bins were returned to our disposal company. All steps of the manufacturing process which directly involved recycling to any degree were put to a stop. We completely eliminated the company position of “material handler” and re-hired that individual to work in an open manufacturing position. All employees are forbidden to recycle at work and we encourage them to follow this same policy at home. We conducted workshops on this initiative for existing employees and all new employees also receive it as part of their orientation. Starting in 2009, we will reward each employee who signs an agreement not to recycle at home one extra paid vacation day.

    Why did we do this, especially given the current popularity of acting “green”? Because, after doing months of research and investigations (conducted both in-house and by two outside, independent agencies), we realized that recycling is just a “make-work” initiative, one that does NOTHING to benefit business or the environment, and recycling’s primary goal is to make uneducated, “green” people feel good about themselves. As a “make-work” initiative, the main goal of recycling, and the companies that do it, is to create fancy-sounding jobs for people who are otherwise unemployable. We would rather create and contribute to a real, necessary, productive workforce economy, vs. standing standing behind a “green” facade. Most importantly, recycling and the companies that do it, have been proven, time after time, to actually do more HARM to the environment than good.

    Bottom line: Recycling has been proven–without a doubt–to be nothing more than an expensive economic and environmental fallacy. Here is more information we used in our research:

    http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results.html?artId=402
    http://www.ehponline.org/docs/1995/103-11/focus2.html
    http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/92358/detail/

    By completely eliminating recycling and initiating a ZERO-RECYCLING policy, our company will save, on average, close to $40k/year, not including the salary of the “material handler” position which were able to completely eliminate. Even better yet, we have seen a huge increase in worker productivity, now that our employees–particularly in manufacturing–are able to focus on their WORK and not be burdened by recycling getting in the way.

    The success of our trend-breaking initiative has drawn the attention of other companies in our industry and beyond. Almost every other day, another company calls us, asking for information on how they can eliminate recycling. We have hosted six walk-through tours this year alone, including a company from Finland and one from the UK, and our VP of Operations will be speaking at three business conferences, between now and April, showcasing our initiative. Although it is obviously somewhat controversial, we are very proud of our initiative and why we are doing it.

    Clearly, in today’s business environment, companies large and small are finally realizing how damaging the scam of recycling truly is–to their bottom line and to the environment. If you, or your company, thinks it’s good to recycle, good to pretend to act “green”, and good to let the fallacy of recycling get in the way of real work, please get educated and start doing the right thing TODAY. We did, and we, and our shareholders, could not be happier.

  12. I too recycle and I believe it is a 100% worthwhile cause. I find it hard to understand why people can’t see that it’s a good thing especially nowadays.

    Keep it up and let’s make the world a better, happier and healthier place.

  13. poscogrubb says:

    I live in a state that collects deposits on beverage containers, and I take advantage of the return. But there are a couple arguments against it (I’m playing Devil’s Advocate):

    1.) It’s pretty much a tax. If you’re buying a case of bottled water for a class field trip, you pay the deposit. The kids take the bottles, and you don’t get your deposit back.

    2.) It doesn’t work. Around university campus, there are recycle receptacles everywhere that do not give you back your 5 cents. 2a.) So people would recycle even without the motivation of getting back the deposit. 2b.) And other people throw away recyclables even WITH the motivation of getting back the deposit. 2c.) And then there are all the homeless people rummaging through trash cans and carrying around huge trash bags full of sticky beverage containers on public mass transportation… Ugh!

  14. Carla says:

    I’ve been recycling since I was a kid (early ’80s). First we had to take the cans, bottles and paper to a local disposal where you would get paid for the cans and bottles. Then in the early ’90 home pick-up came to our area. Recycling is a way of life – not something you have to think about.

    I am still shocked when I see people throw cans in the trash.

  15. Hi Jim – What a great article and I’m right with you on the recycling front. Thank you for contributing it to this month’s Carnival of Trash. The Carnival has now been published and can be seen at http://therubbishdiet.blogspot.com

  16. John Costigane says:

    Hi Jim,

    5 good reasons for recycling. Good to see a fresh viewpoint towards the issue.

    Do you not have meat composting available, either by home appliance or council collection of food waste?

    I use a Bokashi bin which is a bit pricey. Alternatively, a Green Cone can be sited outdoor to compost meat/fish/fat/bone. Removing meat etc from garbage will transform the waste into “clean” material.

  17. I guess you haven’t seen the Penn & Teller: Bullshit episode on Recycling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Sp8PzgY7XA

  18. Anonymous says:

    i think we all should recycle !


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