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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4116/recycling-what-a-waste/

Recycling: What a Waste!

September 22, 2005 by

School kids across the country will again be taught a chief doctrine in the civic religion: recycle, not only because you fear the police but also because you love the planet. Jim Fedako, however, explains that if recycling were really efficient and not wasteful, people would not have to be browbeaten, and trash companies wouldn’t have to undertake this charade that they are helping preserve the planet by picking up sorted garbage. Reusing and reducing are viable market activities. Recycling is not. FULL ARTICLE

{ 88 comments }

Bob A. September 23, 2005 at 10:11 pm

Recycling is profitable for all concerned, as I’ve previously explained. During the past 35 years I’ve lived in Washington (State), Oregon, and Colorado. Most of the time I’ve lived in Washington. I have never been forced to recyle. In all situations except the one I’m in now, I’ve been paid for my recyclables. As of now, the privately owned center, that makes an excellent profit from its sales, does not pay for my recyclables. My wife and I do not think of the few minutes per day that we spend tossing glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper into the 4 receptacles we set up. I expect that the center will some time in the future find the need to pay for recyclables in order for it to expand its operations and increase profits.

For those who live in areas that force them to do what they do not want to do, I recommend activism to bring about changes. After all, is this site not interested in educating enough people in Austrian economics such that it can become reality in America? Or is there another goal in mind that I’m failing to grasp?

Tim September 24, 2005 at 3:20 am

There is an interesting article in the same vein as Jim’s here, it’s Slate economist Steven Landsburg’s “Why I am not an environmentalist” subtitled “The Science of Economics Versus the Religion of Ecology”.

What Jim and Steven Landsburg are opposed to is really “faith based environmentalism” not rational environmentalist policies per se.

Also of note, an eco-skeptic blog entry worth checking out here.

Sione Vatu September 24, 2005 at 9:54 am

Guys

I too was fascinated in the Changing World Technologies idea of changing waste into fuel (in this case a light crude). I did a little checking as I’d thought of investing or seeking a franchise (people like me do this as we do not like squandering our own money). I found enough to keep the chequebook in the pocket and the cash in the wallet. And they ain’t emerging just yet!

Changing World Technologies is the recipient of much govt. handout and subsidy (a bad omen). I understand they recently were “granted” another US$10 million in order to keep the doors open. What has been achieved apart from some excellent press? Nothing I was able to verify as yet. Few details are forthcoming. It looks suspicious. Could be too good to be true. Caution is necessary.

I note independent audits or technical examinations of the plant and the claims are not available. I note no independent refiner or qualified party appears to have examined the product (alleged to be equivalent to Texas light). I have been unable to locate a substantial technical explanation of the CWT process, including in the patent databases. There is little in the literature (another bad omen). No-one else is getting into the business to compete with their own processes (such as oil and chemical companies). A lack of serious attention from the specialist scientific/engineering journals and a paucity of activity from large commercial interests in the organic chemical industry suggests all is not quite right (a seriously bad omen to take heed of). Perhaps the situation is not as claimed.

…but there has been plenty of govt. cash to keep the whole pyramid above water. And there have been some lovely fluff pieces in Discover magazine.

For a civilisation that relies on technology to survive the amount of uncritical belief that manifests itself is extremely dangerous. Perhaps thinking and learning is too hard, especially when faith and myth provide all answers. Oh well. Your society believes in god-devils and spirit-monsters, so I suppose you deserve to be fleeced. PTL!

The Mises Daily article is spot on.

BTW has anyone noticed how the automobile industry reuses parts, components and metals? These guys have been doing the “recycling” long before any environmentalists started prattling on and on and on and on and on. If it’s worth doing something like this, people will do it of their own accord. You don’t require govt. boondoggles and bosses and cronies.

The garbage “industry” as with so many others has been grossly distorted by government interference. It is difficult to work out what is economic, what is marginal and what is complete rubbish (totally un-recyclable in this case). The only conclusion to be drawn is that elimination of govt. interference from new technology research, garbage, “recycling” and all other industries should be mandatory. Let free and thoughtful people deal with the opportunities themselves.

Talofa!

Sione

Bob A. September 24, 2005 at 11:35 am

For every article that disparages environmentalism, there are many more that support it—with science. Here’s the thing: If anti-environmentalists are correct, they can chuckle and say, “Now haven’t you people been ridiculous.” But if environmentalists are correct, we’re ALL in big trouble if we haven’t been doing what we can to prevent the ruin of Planet Earth. It’s analogous to a criminal breaking into one’s home in the middle of the night. One could wonder if the criminal is likely to have murder in mind and let things play out. And if one discovers murder was the plan all along, it could be too late to do anything about it; life may be snuffed out because of the choice to ponder the chances of being right or wrong.

I, for one, do not appreciate those who will poison my air and water. And as far as recycling is concerned, I am pleased to help those who purchase packaged products attain lower prices because of the use of my recyclables—you’re welcome.

“If it’s worth doing something like this, people will do it of their own accord.”

Yes, absolutely. Exactly as many thousands of privately-owned recycling plants all across America are now doing and some of whom have been doing for decades.

The price of oil, which is controlled by futures traders; unconnected shareholders who care not one iota if profits are true or false and whether upticks in share prices came from actual increases in productivity; government supports and giveaways of money taken from America’s citizens in the form of taxes; Wall Street oligarchs and their information-disseminating minions; and many other behind-the-scenes operators, will produce major negative effects in our economy. But there will be some positive effects. For example, more emphasis will be put on advancement of non-petroleum fuels, lubricants, and coolants. And the recycling industry, mostly the plastics recycling industry, will see great opportunities emerge. Who knows but that production costs of virgin plastics might rise to be triple that of a few years ago.
I recently read something written by a really smart person, and I read it in my Mises Daily Article from 9-20-05, Mises in Defense of Edgeworth, by Ludwig von Mises, last sentence in the article:
“No general rule is available, except that, like the cultivated Athenian, we should eschew the invidious disparagement of each other’s pursuits.”

Marwan September 24, 2005 at 8:21 pm

Bob A. stated “I, for one, do not appreciate those who will poison my air and water.”

Bob, I think that is true for everyone. I DON’T recycle and I don’t want anyone polluting my property either. That begs the question: why don’t I recycle? Becuase I don’t have the necessary information in the current environment. I don’t know:
1. Is there really a pollution problem?

2. Is recyclying the most effective solution?

3. How is my PRIVATE property polluted?

4. Am I polluting other’s PRIVATE property?

These questions cannot be answered given our current social, economic and political environment. Since we are all essentialy serfs in a semi-capitalist-quasi-feudal system, we do NOT have private property. If you disagree, ask yourself: why do I own my house if the government charges me a tax for the property? And not just a usage-service tax but one that taxes the property I ‘own’ and the market appreciation I ‘enjoy’, while the monetary value is reduced by state-engineered inflation? Since we don’t own any PRIVATE property, the state essentially owns everything and my natural inclination is to do NOTHING the state demands until the threat or use of violence exceeds my tolerance level — I choose NOT to recycle. Should I? I don’t know. Do I not care about the ‘environment’? I cannot make that determination becasue I don’t know if recycling (as it is practiced in the current environment) is beneficial. I choose NOT to expend energy, time and scarce resouces to an activity that I cannot determine is useful.

Like most other ‘micro’ issues discussed on this blog, it comes down to the ‘macro’ view of the fact that we do not live in an ideal environment (which is an end we CAN attain if we choose), therefore we cannot determine the veracity of numerous activities. Engagement in these activities is arbitrary and must be undertaken on faith. Faith is fine when it comes to your spirtual beleifs; however, faith in the religion of the state is ALWAYS evil. Ergo, the state advocates recycling, therefore, recycling is evil. I cannot do something evil :)

Aaron September 24, 2005 at 11:57 pm

The difficulty with the arguement is that it presents the choice as differing types of ideology. The case against recylcing is that it pollutes through wasted economy. The resources used to recycle are a type of anti-mining, as they are constructed in an environment devoid of auditing or finacial analysis. As if worshipping our trash can asuage guilt for creating it, and it were a travesty to actually look to see if we are helping. We’ve an illconceived network of “recyclying” facilities, which totemize trash, allowing it to be passed along in to more and more people, eventually reaching someone who will reluctantly re-introduce it into the now deminished value adding stream at a huge loss. Analysing the progress of one peice of returned trash, and the gas, power, energy, fuss and structure to return it to the product stream would quickly reveal by comparison that the cheaper non-recylced materials cost less polution to create, even considering the cost of storing the trash item on the planet. Pollution generally equals cost. Something that is expensive to mine, such as a recylcled item mined from our homes, creates pollution. The notion that we are undervalueing the cost of large landfills, incineration and such. well that assumes that analytical tools that are applied to the situation can’t reveal truth, as if there were some better type of fairy or elfin based math that would more clearly demonstrate why this works. The fact that recyling is much more expensive means that it is polluting more and sucking time and energy away from other activities, such reusing, reducing and simply using auding and budgeting.. all methods which actually help control costs – and the waste they incurr both financially and on our environment.

Jim Reid September 25, 2005 at 9:38 am

Thanks for putting into words my beliefs about
recycling. I too gave it up once the trash
companies charged me to donate. Obious economic
problems.

BobA. September 25, 2005 at 12:27 pm

Marwan,
“Since we are all essentialy serfs in a semi-capitalist-quasi-feudal system, we do NOT have private property.”
I like your description! I’ve been trying to convince as many people as I can that we live in a feudal system right now—not quasi at all, but fully feudal. I think many people have difficulty recognizing this because they think of the living conditions of the middle ages. We are rapidly becoming economic slaves, but the whips and chains haven’t been used yet. Of course, they never will because that will bring revolution, something the neocons will do everything possible to avoid. No, it will be economic manipulation that will be used as a weapon.
Only a few years ago I would have had a different attitude about a law that required I recycle. Back then I would have thought, “Well that really sucks,” and then gone about my daily life as usual. I recycled anyway and the thought of forcing people in this manner didn’t have so much impact on me. Now, though I live in an area where recycling is voluntary, should such a law be passed, I would be tempted to stop recycling in spite. I would not stop though, because recycling is the right thing to do in my opinion. However, I would get enough people together to pool resources for a full page ad in the local paper to begin the activism required to repeal the law. And we would establish a website and on and on. In fact, I almost wish they would pass such a law so that there is an opportunity to engage more people in this newly-discovered philosophy of people actually governing themselves.
If only I didn’t have to use up time and energy making a living; I’d be a full-time activist—a very NOISY activist.
I see your logic and why you resist recycling. Fortunately, tens of millions of people recycle their plastics, glass, aluminum, tin, and paper products in America. In fact, hundreds of millions of people around the world do so. There is sufficient mitigation of damages in these numbers.
The best part of this newly-discovered philosophy for me is the notion that reasonable people are able to do what is best for them and do no harm to others in the process. This is “old hat” to you folks and you probable think of me as “What-‘r’-you-just-stupid.” If you do not recycle and you believe your reasoning is sound, you are then correct; how’s that for logic. However, I’ll try to convince as many people as I can to recycle because I believe my reasoning is sound.

Bob A. September 25, 2005 at 1:06 pm

Aaron,

“The resources used to recycle are a type of anti-mining, as they are constructed in an environment devoid of auditing or finacial analysis.”

Well, that simply cannot be the case with the thousands of successful privately-owned recycling facilities across America and around the world.

“Analysing the progress of one peice of returned trash, and the gas, power, energy, fuss and structure to return it to the product stream would quickly reveal by comparison that the cheaper non-recylced materials cost less polution to create, even considering the cost of storing the trash item on the planet.”

It will only take a few minutes at a recycling facility to understand how little cost per pound there is in bundling products for transport to manufacturers who use recyclables. Additionally, it is very simple to understand that purchasing virgin plastics, for example, is much higher and requires much more energy in initial production than reusing recyclables. Why not write some letters to people who reuse plastics, say HDPE for example, and ask them how much less it costs to chop up recyclables and begin remanufacture than it does to purchase the powders and pellets of virgin plastics and put them through the full cycle?

Let’s face it; if it didn’t create acceptable profit margins, re-manufacturers would not bother to do it. And, as I’ve previously mentioned, the artificially-created higher price of oil will make it much more attractive to recyclers, recycling facilities, and re-manufacturers who reuse what you’ve suggested be “stored” in landfills.

Recycling should be voluntary as everything should be. And ALL recycling facilities should pay for customers’ recyclables. It’s up to America’s citizens to bring it about. Or just keep on complaining about it.

R.P. McCosker September 25, 2005 at 2:40 pm

Bob A.:

“Reducing and reusing should be foremost as they will obviously make recycling less necessary, but recycling is definitely a necessity. The author is way off base on numerous points, at least as it relates to my geographic area.”

I don’t know what you mean by “necessary” and “necessity” here. Necessary for what?

Cleaner air? The survival of mankind? Of life on earth? Let’s hear about it.

“This statement shows, to me, that the author isn’t well read as far as the amount of refuse created by Americans. Throw in the facts that Americans cannot seem to grasp the concept of ‘overgrazing’ (from overpopulation) and that people from all over the world continue pouring in to live here, one can easily see that recycling is an absolute necessity.”

Have you read the cached NY Times article the Fedako commentary links to? I assume didn’t want to repeat everything in that. It explains how America has plenty of land to take care of its landfill needs for thousands of year.

America’s nearly open borders with the Third World are a catastrophe indeed, but that has nothing to do with recycling.

“The recycling facility in my local area is owned privately. Dropping off recycling is free. There are even employees who help the ‘customers’ empty their containers. The recycling company sells its bundles to companies who remanufacture various goods and packaging. The facility is very clean and technologically current. They receive no tax money. Obviously, it’s a profitable business for the company. In fact, on the way home on I-90, we saw two 40ft flatbeds from the company; one hauling huge bundles of recycled cardboard and the truck behind it hauling huge bundles of crushed plastic. I guess they must have found a buyer.”

If this company is truly unsubsidized, then its creators are savvy entrepreneurs indeed. But the reason Fedako’s commentary is here is because of the hugely widespread, wasteful, and coercive recycling laws and programs that plague the country. If your local company has found a way to be cost-effective and voluntary, then that’s free enterprise, pure and simple.

“We moved to our area about 2 years ago. Before that we lived in Western Washington for a couple of decades. In our little town, maybe 50 miles from Seattle, the refuse collection companies paid us $5.00 per month for our recycling. That wasn’t much; in a TRUE free market economy, we might be able to sell our recycling at better prices.”

Perhaps, though I doubt it. I wonder whether the $5 you’re talking about wasn’t really a redistribution program courtesy of obscured government compulsion.

“Recycling also pays in intangible ways. It’s easy to find information on the Internet about how much less expensive recycled packaging is for food producers, for example. The companies who use the packaging will never tell anyone how they manage to reduce prices to remain competitive, but stop recycling and cause all packaging to be made from newly-produced raw materials, and we’ll all be bombarded with messages in every media from companies crying the blues and apologizing for having to raise prices to account for increased packaging costs. So, even if the recycling company in this geographical area doesn’t pay us for our recycling—yet—we are receiving savings on goods purchased that are packaged using recycled materials.”

Again, if it’s profitable, food packaging companies will put out an adequate bounty for recyclables. It doesn’t take government coercion, or eager-beaver citizen “concern” to make it happen if it’s worthwhile.

“Maybe I’m giving this too much attention, because this sounds a lot like a joke. I wash 4 aluminum or tin cat food cans, maybe a couple of plastic beverage bottles, and a couple of plastic frozen entrée containers every day (yeah, my wife and I eat too many of those nowadays!). These are washed along with any other dishes of the day. No more soap or water is added to account for these recyclables. It seems a little silly to suggest an ‘investment in soap and water.’”

If you’re washing more receptacles in the sink, you should expect to use more water. (Unless you’d be using too much water for the regular dishes.) If you’re putting them in a dishwasher, then you’re filling the dishwasher sooner.

Such behavior as that seems more befitting the description “a little silly.”

“It’s probably been a couple of decades since I saw a garbage truck that wasn’t a crusher-type, so I don’t think there’ll be any mining of glass bottles. But, more importantly, the author is obviously not aware of the toxicity of landfills.”

Again, Fedako probably didn’t want to repeat everything from the NY Times.

In fact, modern rules make it rare for toxins to bleed out of landfills. And regular household recyclables (glass, plastics, wood products, “green waste”) aren’t the toxins in them anyway.

(Yes, I know about used motor oil, the exception that proves the rule, so to speak. It’s illegal, where I live, to put it in the garbage, even though the collectors have no recycling provision for it. One has to go miles to a toxic waste recycling center and pay a special fee to leave it there. Naturally, most self-changers probably just conceal the stuff in their trash. I have my oil changed professionally and am charged a $3 recycling fee along with it.)

“There are fewer trees available to produce wood products because there are fewer trees cut. There are fewer trees cut because people finally began to recognize the dramatic negative effects from clear-cutting. The dramatic negative effects from clear-cutting are caused by not replanting and managing forests. Want to find blame? Blame government for complicity with fly-by-night logging companies in making tracts available at far less than market prices. And blame the fly-by-nighters for only being in the business for the enormous short-term gains with no intention of living by the ‘do-no-harm’ credo. You would have thought that, if government insisted on interference, it would have at least required replanting and sustainable management as part of the transaction.”

Most of our wood products are from commercial forests. It’s sad that, as usual with government, government forests are so mismanaged. I’d be surprised if subsidized,compulsory recycling had much impact on that. If anything, the subsidized, compulsory recycling movement serves as a smokescreen for crony timber companies that arrange to clear government forests, and for socialist-minded professional environmentalists who don’t want bad publicity about government forest management for fear of increasing public support for the privatization of government lands. (Somewhere around half the US landmass!)

“Fewer trees cut = higher prices for wood products. More trees planted and managed = more forests. There are companies in the timber industry that are in it for the long term (one such company’s name starts with ‘W’) and these companies understand the 80-year yield cycle and that selective thinning and careful maintenance is more productive (profitable). If more forests are created and managed, our atmosphere will be cleaner and the timber industry can also make a comeback.

“There have been many positive effects from the downsizing of the timber industry but the three best results, in my humble opinion are a) the retraining of loggers into engineers, IT professionals, etc thus building new industries in towns that once depended on the destruction of forests, b) the emergence of the push for paper-free systems within business and government, and c) the sudden advancement of technology for recycling paper.”

Recycling paper is still usually very cost-ineffective on an individual household basis.

If you want better forest management, get government out of forest. Subsidized, compulsory recycling is a wasteful sideshow.

“It would be interesting to learn of the Misesian school of thought regarding logging outfits such as the aforementioned fly-by-nighters and estimates of how they might be handled in a TRUE free market in which TRUE free enterprise is transacted.”

Private owners of commercial forests are interested in renewal. Governments cut deals in the short-term interest of their officials, the future be damned. (Sometimes known as public choice economics.)

“There are thousands of privately owned recycling facilities in America. In fact, there are over 2000 in California. Obviously, there is profit in recycling for these businesses.

“Here’s an interesting statistic: California managed a 4% increase in recycling from 2003 to 2004. This 4% jump alone ‘equates roughly to saving 31 million gallons of gasoline.’ The increase includes a jump of 1.5 billion containers, and the volume of these containers ‘would fill to the rim three 50,000-seat baseball stadiums.’ See: http://www.consrv.ca.gov/index/news/2005%20News%20Releases/NR2005-09_2004_Recycling_Rates.htm

That’s a State of California p.r. website! Holy propaganda, Batman!

I live in California, and I assure you the compulsory curbside recycling we have here is a big fat losing screw-the-customer, screw-the-taxpayer political payoff to crony corporations and environmentalist fanatics who have so much pull here.

“Equally obvious is that everyone benefits from recycling, even those who don’t participate. When DAY ZERO occurs, that day when TRUE free markets are commonplace, the future might give me the opportunity to sell my recyclables for decent money. For now, we’re all getting economic benefits, albeit difficult to measure.”

Sorry, but that’s not obvious at all. What *is* obvious is that everyone (except the aforementioned payoff beneficiaries, plus the funcionaries of the leviathan State) is being screwed by subsidized, compulsory recycling. Happy lambs to the slaughter.

“Recycling is profitable for all concerned, as I’ve previously explained. During the past 35 years I’ve lived in Washington (State), Oregon, and Colorado. Most of the time I’ve lived in Washington. I have never been forced to recyle. In all situations except the one I’m in now, I’ve been paid for my recyclables. As of now, the privately owned center, that makes an excellent profit from its sales, does not pay for my recyclables. My wife and I do not think of the few minutes per day that we spend tossing glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper into the 4 receptacles we set up. I expect that the center will some time in the future find the need to pay for recyclables in order for it to expand its operations and increase profits.”

It always nice to hear about voluntary, unsubsidized businesses serving consumer needs. But I wonder whether “the few minutes per day” you *and* your wife spend are really worthwhile, especially now that you’re not paid anything.

Except in this way:

I curbside recycle because I pay for it whether I want to or not. I could put everything in my trashcan, but there wouldn’t be room. Whereas when I put out the recyclables, they’re picked up without extra charge.

But I’m not fooled by the underlying politico-economic reality of this. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the man said. The extra cost of curbside recycling is pooled with everyone else in my trash collection district and incorporated into all our trash collection bills.

If fact, people are encouraged to accumulate more garbage because, whereas they’re charged per trash can, the recyclables actual collection cost is hidden from the individual household, so there’s an incentive to take advantage of this seemingly “free” service.

“For those who live in areas that force them to do what they do not want to do, I recommend activism to bring about changes. After all, is this site not interested in educating enough people in Austrian economics such that it can become reality in America? Or is there another goal in mind that I’m failing to grasp?”

That sounds like a red herring. This is a forum for ideas, not particularly for sharing strategies of activism. Nobody wrote here against activism on this subject. Are you insinuating we’re insincere if we don’t become political activists?

BTW, I spent about 15 years of my life working professionally and semi-professionally in politics, most of it as a legislative aide. I’ve seen all too well that there’s a far more urgent need to educate people about the nature of the State than to play the its political games.

“For every article that disparages environmentalism, there are many more that support it—with science. Here’s the thing: If anti-environmentalists are correct, they can chuckle and say, ‘Now haven’t you people been ridiculous.’ But if environmentalists are correct, we’re ALL in big trouble if we haven’t been doing what we can to prevent the ruin of Planet Earth. It’s analogous to a criminal breaking into one’s home in the middle of the night. One could wonder if the criminal is likely to have murder in mind and let things play out. And if one discovers murder was the plan all along, it could be too late to do anything about it; life may be snuffed out because of the choice to ponder the chances of being right or wrong.”

You’re right that environmentalists get a lot more media play than their critics. That’s the way it is with statism: Are you suggesting that makes them right?

For now, I don’t seek to take this particular discussion into the whole of environmental issues. I’m content here to say that the government’s subsidized, compulsory recycling regime is bad stuff for reasons already stated. And nothing stated so far in this discussion has rebutted those reasons, logically or empirically.

“I, for one, do not appreciate those who will poison my air and water. And as far as recycling is concerned, I am pleased to help those who purchase packaged products attain lower prices because of the use of my recyclables—you’re welcome.”

You don’t “appreciate those who will poison my air and water”? Mom and apple pie.

Your altruistic commitment to lower prices for other consumers is touching. But the government-fostered system is so uneconomic that it seems very dubious that it offers any such net benefits.

Bob A. September 25, 2005 at 5:15 pm

R.P. McCosker,

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘necessary’ and ‘necessity’ here. Necessary for what?”

To reduce space in landfills, to reduce costs by remanufacturing (essentially reusing items whose costs have already been incurred), and, in the case of plastics, to slow the increased usage of non-renewable resources better used elsewhere.

“America’s nearly open borders with the Third World are a catastrophe indeed, but that has nothing to do with recycling.”

Yes, it most certainly does. With the normal overpopulation we’re creating, add to it the enormous influx of those from other countries, and then imagine NO RECYCLING.

“Cleaner air? The survival of mankind? Of life on earth? Let’s hear about it.”

I’ll refer here to your stated desire that “For now, I don’t seek to take this particular discussion into the whole of environmental issues.” I thinks that’s for the best as the question above would create, though extremely interesting for me, quite a lengthy discussion. I feel confident in assuming you agree with that.

“Have you read the cached NY Times article the Fedako commentary links to? I assume didn’t want to repeat everything in that. It explains how America has plenty of land to take care of its landfill needs for thousands of year.”

Oh, yeah, I read it long ago. There are innumerable articles that refute everything in it. Do I want to repeat it? Absolutely not. And the statement that “America has plenty of land to take care of its landfill needs for thousands of year” is one that I am frankly shocked by. Imagine the millions of tons of recyclables that are now being reused being suddenly thrown day in and day out into landfills. Unbelievable.

“But the reason Fedako’s commentary is here is because of the hugely widespread, wasteful, and coercive recycling laws and programs that plague the country.”

Well, if that’s the reason for the commentary, then I’m all for it and apologize for having read far too much into it. I learn more and more daily just how destructive government has become. Too bad this philosophy doesn’t spread more rapidly.

“If your local company has found a way to be cost-effective and voluntary, then that’s free enterprise, pure and simple.”

Yes, I congratulate them, but I wish they would pay me for my recyclables. Although this would dip into their profits, I believe they should pay for the raw materials of their business—initial product to sell. However, if the company desires to grow by finding new markets or increasing its share, it will need more product and this will create the need to pay for it thereby motivating others to recycle. In fact, because of this article, I’ve decided to contact the ownership of this particular company for an interview or at least a correspondent. In that regard, I thank the author.

“Perhaps, though I doubt it. I wonder whether the $5 you’re talking about wasn’t really a redistribution program courtesy of obscured government compulsion.”

Could be. Kinda like buying a used car for a discount that has already been built into the price.

“It doesn’t take government coercion, or eager-beaver citizen “concern” to make it happen if it’s worthwhile.”

Government coercion is a very bad thing, alright. And it won’t be necessary for me to be an “eager-beaver citizen” if this anti-recycling campaign doesn’t reach too far.

“If you’re washing more receptacles in the sink, you should expect to use more water. (Unless you’d be using too much water for the regular dishes.) If you’re putting them in a dishwasher, then you’re filling the dishwasher sooner.”

No, I don’t use more water. Additionally, I use biodegradable soap and have rerouted the drain from the sink to the garden. We’re low water users. And I’m the dishwasher.

“Such behavior as that seems more befitting the description ‘a little silly.’”

Not to me. Am I not permitted actions contrary to those that you deem appropriate for you? A sink full of water is a sink full of water no matter how many recyclables I wash, and the same amount of soap is used as well. Talk about an incalculable “investment,” try determining how much soap is used on a cat food can.

“Most of our wood products are from commercial forests. It’s sad that, as usual with government, government forests are so mismanaged. I’d be surprised if subsidized,compulsory recycling had much impact on that. If anything, the subsidized, compulsory recycling movement serves as a smokescreen for crony timber companies that arrange to clear government forests, and for socialist-minded professional environmentalists who don’t want bad publicity about government forest management for fear of increasing public support for the privatization of government lands. (Somewhere around half the US landmass!)”

I don’t have much problem with the above as government cannot properly manage much of anything. And I mentioned previously that it’s likely that “cronyism” with the government is what caused what became problems for the entire timber industry even though the major commercial companies plant far more trees than they cut down.

However, the subject of privatizing “public” lands is a whole different story, one that I would really enjoy discussing though it would more than likely far exceed the conversation regarding environmentalism. While I believe that privatization can solve economic problems, privatization in the current government/corporate plutocratic oligarchy will be disastrous. Give it another 4-8 years if the neocons remain in power, and it will be far worse. Anyway, we’re better off not getting into that one.

“Subsidized, compulsory recycling is a wasteful sideshow.”

Agreed.

“Recycling paper is still usually very cost-ineffective on an individual household basis.”

Strongly disagree.

“Private owners of commercial forests are interested in renewal. Governments cut deals in the short-term interest of their officials, the future be damned. (Sometimes known as public choice economics.)”

Strongly agree.

“That’s a State of California p.r. website! Holy propaganda, Batman!
I live in California, and I assure you the compulsory curbside recycling we have here is a big fat losing screw-the-customer, screw-the-taxpayer political payoff to crony corporations and environmentalist fanatics who have so much pull here.”

I figured on there being California residents on the blog. All websites, left and right, use propaganda. But there are statistics, not only at this website but a great many others, that will verify the enormous amount of recyclables that are re-manufactured in America. Your governmental problems can be solved; coercion can be stopped; private enterprise can prevail. But do away with recycling altogether and we’re all going to suffer for it in the short and long term.

“Sorry, but that’s not obvious at all. What *is* obvious is that everyone (except the aforementioned payoff beneficiaries, plus the funcionaries of the leviathan State) is being screwed by subsidized, compulsory recycling. Happy lambs to the slaughter.”

Subsidization and compulsion by government is wrong at all levels.

“That sounds like a red herring. This is a forum for ideas, not particularly for sharing strategies of activism. Nobody wrote here against activism on this subject. Are you insinuating we’re insincere if we don’t become political activists?”

These statements make it seem as though you’re trying to start a schoolyard fight. Nothing I’ve written suggests such a thing. If this is a forum for ideas, then I’ve complied.

“BTW, I spent about 15 years of my life working professionally and semi-professionally in politics, most of it as a legislative aide. I’ve seen all too well that there’s a far more urgent need to educate people about the nature of the State than to play the its political games.”

I wish you the best of successes in spreading the word. Too bad the word isn’t spreading much faster. It’s a shame for people to have to “stumble” onto great ideas. I’m glad I did, but I wish I’d known a couple of decades ago. BTW, people who vote for Democrats aren’t horned devils who worship socialism or some other –ism that you despise. People like me merely need to be shown a better way; we already believe that individual freedoms are the basis required to live in liberty and pursue our happiness. The message that tax-and-spend is not the best way to achieve these ends and that there is a much better way, needs to become widely known; not a secret credo.

“You’re right that environmentalists get a lot more media play than their critics. That’s the way it is with statism: Are you suggesting that makes them right?”

I don’t agree with statism, but I’m extremely interested in environmentalism. I read quite a lot about the various subjects within it from all viewpoints. What I believe is right may be wrong and the same goes for you. We just have to be confident in our decisions, and I am in mine.

“You don’t ‘appreciate those who will poison my air and water’? Mom and apple pie.”

Well, I’m not quite sure what to make of the “Mom and apple pie” thing. I don’t appreciate those who will poison my air and water. Period. Simple.

“Your altruistic commitment to lower prices for other consumers is touching. But the government-fostered system is so uneconomic that it seems very dubious that it offers any such net benefits.”

None of my comments have suggested support of any government-fostered system so, again, I’m not quite sure what to make of the statement. Possibly, you didn’t intend it to apply to me and you were merely stating your opinion, with which I happen to agree. However, the author’s article was anti-recycling, not specifically anti-government-supported-recycling.

The article, in no uncertain terms, impugned the wisdom of those who participate in recycling in general. And the last paragraph begged for additional commentary:

“Oh, and don’t tell my children half the recycling story. Remember Hazlitt and turn over the second and third stone before drawing an economic conclusion.”

Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me from your “tone” that you would prefer this statement:

Comment on the blog.

To instead state:

Comment on the blog to our board of reviewers. Should your comments be in agreement with the general attitudes of the board, your comments will be posted.

R.P. McCosker September 25, 2005 at 5:57 pm

Bob A.:

As you’ve addressed practically none of the substance of my comments, I’ve little more to say here.

But your last, gratuitous remark beckons a response:

“Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me from your ‘tone’ that you would prefer this statement:

“Comment on the blog.

“To instead state:

“Comment on the blog to our board of reviewers. Should your comments be in agreement with the general attitudes of the board, your comments will be posted.”

As you can plainly see, there’s no screening of your opinions. That’s why they’re on this webpage, being discussed here. Criticism isn’t censorship.

Bob A. September 25, 2005 at 7:25 pm

R.P. McCosker,

“Criticism isn’t censorship.”

All can plainly see that censorship is not a problem to worry about at this site, thus making it all the better. My comments addressed what I perceive your attitude to be; that someone dare disagree with you publicly. I hope I’m wrong about my perception, but your diction and syntax do not prove that out:

“As you’ve addressed practically none of the substance of my comments, I’ve little more to say here.”

I welcome criticism as I believe it to be part of gaining wisdom. Knowledge-building is available to those who desire and value it; wisdom being a much different endeavor. But there is a method of criticism I feel confident in assuming you are quite familiar with, your intellect, likely high degree of higher education, and obvious excellent articulation being evident.

This has been an enlightening discussion for many reasons beyond the commentary about the subject matter of the article. Here is my last word:

Hooray for those who recycle and double-hooray for those who have examined sufficient data to be confident in their decisions either way.

Take it away, sir.

Respectfully,
Bob A.

Bob A. September 25, 2005 at 7:33 pm

R.P. McCosker,

My sincerest apologies for the title of “sir.” I continue to have difficulty in the online environment making assumptions about the gender of the bloggers. Even if I was correct in addressing you in such manner, it was foolish of me to do so without prior knowledge. Of course, if I was incorrect, I am twice as foolish.

R.P. McCosker September 25, 2005 at 11:33 pm

Bob A.:

I could be called “sir,” but you may call me “Randy” if you prefer.

Bob A. September 26, 2005 at 1:12 am

Randy,

Sir, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to more such stimulating and enlightening discussions. This website is a real treasure.

Yancey Ward September 26, 2005 at 8:48 am

David White,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your query, but I was away over the weekend. Here is the reference I use whenever I wish to use HTML tags. I would give a description of how to create one-click links, but it is difficult to do in an HTML-based comments section. It takes a little practice to get it right. As for the links, just remember that if you want a word or particular phrase to be your link (a hidden URL), you put this text between the bracketing tags.

Yancey Ward September 26, 2005 at 8:59 am

As for the discussion at hand, the key issue, I think, is the coercion used to force one to sort one’s trash. I think recycling of metals, paper, and plastic may be profitable, but why not let recyclers pay you directly for your efforts of sorting? One could even offer differential pricing for trash disposal.

Walter E. Wallis September 26, 2005 at 6:36 pm

Environmentalism did not start with Carson. At the turn of the last century California outlawed hydraulic mining, surely one of the big powers back then, because silting the rivers was flooding out farmers. The population growth during WWII overburdened treatment plants adequate to an earlier standard, and most of the clean water projects started as soon as war priorities wound down. A good portion of my engineering in the 50′s was devoted to air pollution control, well before EPA. As for recycling, eliminate punitive taxation and assign a value to a person’s time, then dump the idiot idea that a garbage dump needs to be bundled up like the crown jewels and we might get back to working for ourselves and not for some parsimonious pissant politicians who just love to play Simon Says with us.

Martin September 26, 2005 at 8:30 pm

This is the most stupid article I have ever read on Mises.org.
Recycling is inefficient because it doesn’t pay?
Recycling is a waste of resources?
Who are you to say that? I could say the same about the cosmetics industry. You are a marxist. You believe in normative economics, and in the labour-based theory of value. That’s ridiculous. If people like recycling, there is value enough there for me. If they like to spend their money in Vegas, there is value to be made in Vegas too.

What kind of economist are you? How come you got published?

Bob A. September 26, 2005 at 10:11 pm

W.A. Sheer,

“You cannot CLEARLY perceive a vast chasm of difference between the likes of a George Bush or even – gasp – Bill Clinton and the monsters in charge of China or Saddam Hussein?”

Without a doubt, the differences are clear. But does this mean that an invasion of China is on the horizon? And George Bush might be a great guy, but the administration he fronts for wants a newly-styled Fatherland, minus violence against America’s citizens thus far.

“Similarly, although one can accurately ascribe all sorts of statist tendencies to many in our government, it is a stretch to defend those who openly murder their own citizens AS A MATTER OF STATE POLICY, and those who do stupid, misguided things like increase taxes, expand state controls over private property, or go to war over what can only be called mistaken reasoning in hindsight.”

Forgive me if I missed something, but I haven’t yet seen anybody defend the murder of citizens. I HAVE seen many statements that suggest, strongly, that we don’t have the right to invasion. Additionally, after “success” from an invasion, is not the question ALWAYS, “Okay. That’s done. Who’s next? Who else is acting against what we think is right?”

“I think that’s clear to anyone who cares to genuinely think it through. It’s not a defense of statism or of those who advocate it by whatever name, but it IS putting things in reasonable perspective.”

That would be YOUR perspective that you wish to project on others, would it not?

“Even if the _effect_ is to support the enemies of free minds and free markets, the claim that one _intended_ to educate them may be acceptable.”

Who are the enemies of free minds? Certainly you cannot be liberal-bashing; liberals are the ones the administration wants to stop from free thinking. And surely you’re not suggesting that this administration has been promoting free markets or, for that matter, anything even resembling free markets!

“How effective can any such spokesman be for any cause or position?”

As you have asked for a response from nobody in particular, the answer is VERY effective.

Bob A. September 26, 2005 at 10:22 pm

Sorry! This belongs on another thread from a different article!

NotApplicable September 27, 2005 at 1:46 pm

Why do you folks insist on fighting pointless battles with the self-destructive do-gooders of the world? (for the record, I’m a recovering do-gooder)

If mindless politicians and their equally mindless “psychic reward” junkies (so-called constituents) demand action, well, no amount of logic about the harm of unintended consequences is going to keep them from destroying the Earth. Such is the nature of the false belief systems driving the divide and conquer body politic.

Back when I was still a believer, I always found myself correcting people who would recycle anything that looked even remotely recyclable, without regard to the actual harm of further “polluting the stream” of recovered materials.

But now… now I’ve stopped tilting at those windmills. Thanks to Penn & Teller’s show Bullshit!, I came to realize the environmental harm created by manufacturing raw materials. Materials that are more efficiently obtained from historical methods. It all comes down to net energy (even environmental considerations). More energy usage = more pollution.

What’s to be done? The only thing that can be, which is to promote this “solution” until it dies from its own weight. So, given that I cannot stop this destructive scenario from unfolding, I’ve chosen the path of Greenspan, which is to accelerate it so that its death comes about much quicker.

Which is a way of saying that not only do I no longer correct misguided recylcers, I’ve joined them! I recycle anything that remotely looks recyclable, with the exact same judgement as those I used to correct. “What do you mean they don’t recylce this, why they should!”

I figure if they get enough of these things, then some do-gooder looking for a politcal score will notice them, and insist that they be recycled too!

Eventually, this exercise results in reductio ad absurdum to the point where even the most pious defenders of recycling will be forced to challenge the reason behind their flawed beliefs.

Besides, even if they don’t, I still have that warm-fuzzy feeling inside, knowing that I’ve given someone a job to sort out the trash from their treasure.

Perhaps if we all start to do our part, then all of our children can look forward to a career in the garbage sorting industry.

And we will all live happily ever after.

Walter E. Wallis September 29, 2005 at 12:18 am

No one has to buy makeup, no one has to go to Las Vegas. Make recycling just as voluntary and God bless you. Take Northern California garbage up to Alturas and Southern California gerbage to Iron Mountain and recover the economically recoverable stuff there. Remove the stupid deposits so that recovery will be based on genuine economic messages. Keep religion out of garbage and vice versa.

warren mcintyre October 4, 2005 at 9:52 am

Unnecessary manufacture of materials = Unnecessary use of energy use = Unnecessary rises in temperature of oceans = Unnecessary long term costs?
Some times we have to consider the hidden costs

Although I guess you would suggest we concentrate on working out how to ‘hide’ CO2 (as we have tried to do with nuclear waste?)or blame the suns increasing relative temperature.

John Mason July 14, 2006 at 12:14 am

What an incredibly stupid article.

John Mason July 14, 2006 at 12:20 am
Reactionary July 14, 2006 at 10:19 am

I’d love to be proved wrong, but if recycling used less resources than it consumed, you’d wake up to find recycling bins at the end of your driveway placed there by entrepeneurs.

I had the same uncomfortable feeling watching a documentary on ethanol production. It takes a lot of heat to boil the biomass in order to distill ethanol. Does the process to manufacture ethanol create more fuel than it consumes?

Muna November 26, 2006 at 4:30 am

One glaring omission in the postings – no one seems to think that the MANUFACTURER of the waste should carry the cost! The economics of recycling argument falls flat on its tush, as all product waste costs, be it local government, ratepayers or the environment, are a form of indirect subsidy to these unintelligently designed products and processes.

1) 100% takeback will internalise all life cycle costs, thereby ensuring both better desing in future, as well as removing the burden from society at large.

2) any life cycle analysis shows that most packaging in its current form is not inherently financially viable, and can only deliver a profit to companies via these externalised subsidies.

so, genuinely free market? I think not!

Robin Ingenthron January 7, 2007 at 7:09 am

General Mining Act of 1872 explains it. In countries without institutionalized subsidies of VIRGIN material, recycling is accomplished in the free market exactly as the author says it “should” be. Even in Hong Kong and Singapore (which are not low-wage areas), it’s almost impossible to throw away cardboard, no matter how hard you may try. More info at
www dot wr3a dot org

Mark Base January 31, 2007 at 4:45 am

Learn about how they recycle stuff in Sweden!

Recycling in Sweden->

Nathan February 15, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Comments on “Recycling: What a Waste”

Just because it is financially cheaper to dump waste in a landfill than recycle it dosen’t justify anything.

If you believe burrying your trash in someone elses back yard is acceptable then I have a proposal.

For the next year burry all of your trash in your own backyard and only eat livestock from reclaimed lands.

I’m sure you would never be caught living such a lifestyle. You probably live in some uppermiddle class community where view waste management is an out of sight out of mind problem.

Each individual has an ethical responsibility to their children to do as little damage to the world (in this case the environment) as possible.

No kid grows up wanting to live on a landfill.

If that means spending more money to limit the amount of waste then so be it.

Your article is a great example on how the wastefulness of americans is justified throgh economics.

Has america lost its ethics or is the average person so uneducated that they cannot think for them selves.

The greed of man has turned politics from helping out the many to benifiting the rich.

Have some ethics and think about waste management, global warming, and the failing education system in america.

Is that cost justified by the monitary profit of the few or the monitary inconvience of the many?

Emily Ekart May 1, 2008 at 3:50 pm

You say that there is no market for recyclable materials? Then let’s make one. You went on and on about how recycling is an inefficient use of scarce resources…. um hello!!!! recycling is trying to make sure that we have those resources years from now. Recycling is helping preserve them. You believe in reusing but not recycling, that is just what recycling is. Re-using the materials that we have already used before. Recycling actually can save loads of money, that’s if people like you would get on board. You can’t expect things to get better if you keep using everying up, even if you are redusing and reusing. Recycling and the No-Waste program Eco-Cycle (Colorado) has come up with can help save this earth that we call home.

scott t October 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm

“This article completely ignores the intelligent person’s case for recycling.”

well…the author says this…..

“If recycling at a financial loss leads you to greater psychic profit, then recycle, recycle, recycle. Let your personal preferences guide your actions…..”
i assume the intelligent make some choices based on psychic profit or benefit??

and then goes on to say….

“I used to recycle; it paid. As a child living in the Pittsburgh area, I would collect and clean used glass containers. After collecting a sufficient amount of glass, my father would drive the three or so miles to the local glass factory where the owner gladly exchanged cleaned waste glass for dollars.”

which is probobly how recycling should be instead of the massive curbside collection operations.

i have read that the newer landfills are selected for geological stability and there are devices now that can reduce bulk even further than compaction extending the lifespan of landfills by quite a bit – hopefully reducing the costs of refuse disposal.

i still see mixed information concerning claims of reduced energy usage for virgin material or recycled material.

my experience with clothing made from recycled has been ok but not necessarily superior to other synthetic material clothing.

shredding Dallas September 21, 2010 at 7:10 am

It may be true that there are some recycling companies and procedures that do more harm that to actually help the environment but let us bear in mind that we still have to do something to reduce the wastage of paper as well as plastic products. Widespread information campaign is needed in order to properly educate people on how to help conserve our natural resources if you are doubtful about the effectiveness of recycling.

Verlie Empson February 6, 2011 at 9:29 am

I’m still learning from you, as I’m improving myself. I absolutely liked reading everything that is posted on your blog.Keep the aarticles coming. I loved it!

John Farre April 12, 2011 at 1:19 am
Tracey Mcguffey September 23, 2011 at 6:59 am

Am i legally responsible for content on my blogs & forums that others have written?

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