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Are city-mandated recycling programs worth it?

 
 
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:01 am
I don't have pre-formed opinion on the matter, I am hoping for real research-based answers to this question.

I just moved to a uber-liberal city with a very strict recycling policy. They will inspect your trash and reject it (with a punitive sticker) if they see anything recyclable in your trash. I find this quite annoying.

But the question is whether there is an actual benefit to this type of draconian recycling law? Does forcing people to recycle really help in any significant economic or environmental way given the fact that now two big trucks drive past every house on trash day instead of one?

I googled this and found a bunch of marketing hype on the pro-recycling side with zero reference to any research on whether this is actually helpful. One argument they are making is that the act of recycling makes people more "civic minded". This is, in my mind, is a bogus argument. I don't buy the idea that an meaningless gesture to make people care is a good thing.

So, if you want to give your opinion on the matter, by all means go ahead.

But what I would really like is fact-based, hopefully scientific research that sheds light on whether these recycling programs actually have any real benefit (other than making people feel good about doing something).

 
Setanta
 
  4  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:28 am
In Toronto, we put out "trash" one week, and recycling the next week. We put out the green bin (organic waste and adult diapers and doggy pee pads) every week. According to this page from the City of Toronto, the fees from recovery of recyclable items helps to pay the cost of waste collection by the city. It also claims that litter on city streets has been greatly reduced.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:33 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

According to this page from the City of Toronto the fees from recovery of recyclable items helps to pay the cost of waste collection by the city. It also claims that litter on city streets has been greatly reduced.


That is not how I read it. The relevant quote I see is "the money the City receives from selling recyclables helps pay for all your waste diversion programs and services." (unless there was another quote on that page that clarifies better).

The key phrase here is "helps pay". This is marketing hype that doesn't answer the question. It just means that there is money gained from selling recyclables.

The key question is whether the money gained from selling recyclables and the savings of reduced landfill trash is greater than the cost of running the recycling program itself. I would like to see the numbers.


0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:38 am
@Setanta,
And I am very skeptical of this point....

How does forcing residents to sort their household trash reduce street litter?
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tsarstepan
 
  3  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:43 am
@maxdancona,
Seriously?? How lazy can one get where separating glass, aluminum, and various plastics into their separate bins so they can be bagged accordingly for trash and recycle day?!

Do you really think we as a planet have infinite space for landfills? Pretty damn naive not to acknowledge that in your initial post Max. That's one of the MAIN reasons recycling exists. It costs millions and millions of dollars to keep using and finding new landfills to dump millions of tons a trash each year. You really don't think we can do better by reducing what can easily be reused and taking it out of the landfill equation?

If you have to ask this, " Does forcing people to recycle really help in any significant economic or environmental way given the fact that now two big trucks drive past every house on trash day instead of one?" then it's no use bothering laying down an answer for you. If this is your sole complaint then why don't you write to your city councilman or town selectman to get them to upgrade to an electric or hybrid fueled truck? Or upgrade to a truck which can handle both recyclables and trash in separate sections?

And seriously?? "Draconian recycling law?" It's not as if they're asking for your first born children if they see an infraction.
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:44 am
If you want to pick a fight, pick a fight with the people who maintain the city's web pages. The page refers to "blue bins," so it is woefully out of date--we haven't used the blue bins in years. No one forces you to sort your trash. If you don't want to put our recycling, there's no "Waste Management Police" who are going to come around to harass you. You can put it all in the every other week trash bin, and it will get sent to a land fill. I believe that currently they're shipping it off to Michigan.

As for bullshit around here, and skepticism . . .

You wrote:
I don't have pre-formed opinion on the matter, I am hoping for real research-based answers to this question.


.. . it seems to me that you came here with an opinion, that you now want ti pick a fight about. Have fun. Bye.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:46 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

As for bullshit around here, and skepticism . . .

You wrote:
I don't have pre-formed opinion on the matter, I am hoping for real research-based answers to this question.


.. . it seems to me that you came here with an opinion, that you now want ti pick a fight about. Have fun. Bye.

Thank you Set for calling that one out. Smile
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:47 am
@Setanta,
I am not picking a fight.

I specifically asked for facts, not maketing hype. You responded with marketing hype. I am only pushing back a little pointing out that the website isn't even saying what you claim it said.

I would like a fact-based discussion on the topic. That requires actual facts. A marketing web-page doesn't cut it.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 09:51 am
@tsarstepan,
I am asking a real question and asking for a factual answer.

Quote:
Do you really think we as a planet have infinite space for landfills?


This is an interesting question? How much landfill space do we have, and how long will it take for us to fill it (given our current landfill use trends)? Is this really a problem?

If this is really an issue, then give me numbers and facts please.

Is the money spent on landfills less than the money spent on recycling programs?

Is it possible to have a rational fact-based discussion on this topic, or is this one of those topics that has people too riled up to even question?
0 Replies
 
panzade
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 11:39 am
@maxdancona,
I don't have a dog in this fight but I'm amazed at the dearth of information and solid facts on the web.
It's apparent to me that the modern back-lash to recycling came from a NY Times cover story in 1996

Quote:
Certainly the most prominent, if not controversial, attack on the nation's growing commitment to recycling was published as a lengthy cover story, "Recycling Is Garbage," in the New York Times Magazine on June 30, 1996. (The article is reprinted as Appendix A.)

http://www.nrdc.org/cities/recycling/recyc/appenda.asp

In it, John Tierney, a staff writer for the magazine, argued that most recycling efforts are economically unsound and of questionable environmental value.
Billions of dollars in profitable and ecologically productive investments in recycling have conserved millions of tons of resources, reduced pollution, saved energy, and produced tens of thousands of jobs.
Yet Tierney described recycling as perhaps "the most wasteful activity in modern America." How could this be?


The rebuttal by the NRDC(Natural Resources Defense Council) is interesting too.

http://www.nrdc.org/cities/recycling/recyc/recyint.asp

Fascinating stuff, but don't ask me to make a conclusion.
0 Replies
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 12:20 pm
@maxdancona,
Max I've long wondered

Judging from the dearth of media attention I'd guess that almost nobody takes recycling very seriously, it's a sort of show hoping to satisfy the greenies. For instance while it's often impossible to decide whether an item belongs in (1) garbage, (2) recyclable, or (3) redeemable, the last time I note the media offered any help in this respect was years ago when on page 6 of our local Fourth Estate it was announced that the "blister" pak is now recyclable

Brief early instructions for instance, that we had posted for some 15 years in the corner of a dishes cabinet and probably long superannuated, tell us that hard plastic is recyclable but garden implements not. But then how about the hard plastic gardening implement

….while it's never been quite clear just how clean must be a paper towel or soup can to qualify. Last I heard, LA supported a team of 30 to drearily reclassify trash that was supposed to already have been separate

In Illinois we're advised there are not just three but a half-dozen different categories into which one is supposed to sort his discard. But, it was reported, few Illini observe them at all
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 01:32 pm
I'm sure it makes economic sense for some companies like Waste Management, and also some cities. It makes sense because the sorting and sometimes the initial processing is done be free and sometimes mandatory labor. Yours.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 01:42 pm
@roger,
If it is actually helping te city economically, meaning the costs of the recycling program lead to greater savings in other areas, then I have no problem with doing the extra work.

But an recycling program is expensive, I would like to the economic savings documented. It should be possible to document the economic costs and benefits of these programs. For some reason these numbers don't seem to be public.
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 02:46 pm
mark
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Nov, 2013 02:59 pm
@maxdancona,
I don't have a dog in the arguing here, just an alley cat - I've biases towards recycling but economics isn't one of my general interests.

I admit to foot squishing cigarette butts out near curbs fifty years ago, but got over that not all that long later. Mostly for me and a lot of people I know, trash goes in the trash, but I know there's a world of people out there trashing a lot. I've read complaints about that re italians in Italy, said there that people are more into family than community for a lot of reasons; I sort of doubt that's true, not that they are more family oriented, but re trash as in my months there it was less trashy than a lot of other places I've been to. (Naples, on the other hand... has other family).

But I might buy that as a generalization that might apply some of the time, that people who just toss stuff don't feel connected to the place they are at, in some way. Re recycling, maybe or maybe not, it helps wake people up . Maybe it's having your own place once you grow up that helps, you then being emotionally invested in not slobbing up the streets. But in any case, trash happens, on the roads or beaches or in provided cans, and necessitates places to put it. In built up smaller countries with long history, finding where to dump it all is a big problem, and not just re the money.

I tend to like reuse of items, long have been, but more so lately. Maybe twenty or twenty five years ago I noticed that I liked old leather book bags or purses with "character", books that had clearly been read by others. Well, used books, that was more that 25 years ago. Patina, they have patina.

Among other things, liking older items gives you a wider view of style than what is in the stores this minute in time. But most seem to much prefer Brand spanking new stuff. So it's good that someone like me can buy from thrift shops items given away by people like them. Apparently at least some dumping facilities try to pull out items that are sellable at their site.

What am I getting at? Recycling within one's home or within a group of friends...
Many people wouldn't want what used to be called cast offs, but many also might.
So I'm positing that a lot of our making piles of trash is our predisposition to have new stuff all the time. Not to blame, new things can be wonderful, but the love for ever new is a kind of merry go round.

So, re the economics of recycling, I somewhat don't care. I think it's important that we don't pile the world up with washing machines tossed into gulches (hyperbole but not all so much) and instead conserve.

Disclosure - my last business partner and I did some designing for a Waste Management facility. It was great fun, good project, and the director of the site was quite a sane guy.
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