Recycling Letters

Kathy Evans (70670.3712@CompuServe.COM)
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:20:48 -0500

I am forwarding some snide, amusing and thoughtful letters to the editor of the
"Express", a popular free weekly paper published in Berkeley. The letters
were in response to an article about the report issued by the Berkeley Plastics
Task Force but are heavily influenced by the NY Times article. John Byrne
Barry is a former Board Member of the Ecology Center; I am not acquainted with
the other writers.

I appreciate all the info I've received through the greenyes listserve. Is
anything going on with the GreenYes campaign and the political conventions?

The letters:
August 2, 1996 "Opiate of the People"
I was amused, as always, with Christine Keyser's ecological fantasies.
("Cityside," July 26) Something that has always been confusing is why recycling
of refuse has always played such a dominant role in the "minds" of the
politcally correct. I mean, after all, our PC brethren spend far more time
sorting through their garbage and piling up neat little recycling bins in from
of their condos than they do in anything else.
Now we surely all know that they are not recycling because they still
suffer from the delusion that recycling saves resources. Especially since the
recent "New York Times Magazine" had a ten-page piece explaining to them how it
actually wastes resources and was entitled "Recycling Is Garbage." So what is
The answer is clearly the need on the part of the PC cult to find a
religious and spritual symbol to put on their lawns, much as some Catholics
place a creche of Jesus and Mary.
So the real purpose of the recycling bins and trash piles is to serve as
a PC creche, to advertise to the world that the people who placed it on their
lawn are caring and compassionate people, concerned about the earth. And
putting up a PC creche is so much cheaper and easier than, say going out and
really learning the skills and knowledge necessary to address and resolve the
real problems of the world. And unlike an MBA, you do not need calculus to
build a recycling creche.
The PC movement is of course a religion, and other than the creche has
many other religious aspects, like the constant repitition of the names of the
PC Trinity (race, gender, and sexual "orientation"), PC religious slogans and
mantras, etc.
Peter Lauterbach, Haas School (business), UC Berkeley

August 9, 1996 "Tales from The Bin"

As I was leaving for work this morning, the woman who lives in the
apartment next to me was placing her recycling bins filled with glass and
aluminum at the curb.
Remembering Peter Lauterbach's astute analysis ("Letters," August 2) of
the real reason people recycle, I said to her: "We all know what you're doing.
You're not fooling anyone with your religion of political correctness. You just
want people to think you're caring and compassionate, but you're a fool! The
"New York Times" says you're wasting resources, and recycling is garbage! If
you were as intelligent as you think you are, you would do some real work! Take
calculus and get and MBA! Then you will have the skills and knowledge necessary
to address and resolve the real problems of the world!"
She looked at me like I was fucking nuts.
Ken Gorny, Berkeley

August 9, "Shoppers Go Home!"

Peter Lauterbach's snide letter (August 2) about how recycling is just a
feel-good PC movement - an "opiate of the people" - is not totally off the mark.
His assertion that recycling does not save resources is absurd, but it is true
that recycling has become a facile symbol of environmental concern and that, by
itself, its contribution is limited.
Recycling is the perfect activity for consumer capitalism. You buy
first, then you worry about disposal. I can buy seven cartfuls of PCs and TVs
and CD players at the electronics warehouse, but that's cool because I'm
recycling the corrugated cardboard packaging. (And I'm using my Sierra Club
VISA card.) To be sure, the benefits of recycling have been overstated. But
who's to blame for that?
Back in the late 1960's, when the modern day recycling vanguard began the
transformations of recycling from an eccentricity into a national virtue, it was
as part of a broader agenda focused on conserving resources and reducing
consumption. On the waste-reduction hierarchy that solid waste officials all
pretty much agree on, recycling actually ranks third. "Reduce, reuse, recycle"
goes the mantra. SourceuLŽuction, which is avoiding genration of garbage in
the first place, is the most environmentally sound practice. That means not
buying something instead of buying something recycled. We do far more
environmental harm producing metals, plastics, paper and so on than discarding
the products made from them, even if we recycle them.
In the last decade, as corporate America has "discovered" recycling - you
know, just like Columbus discovered America - the more threatening message of
reducing consumption has been declawed and sweetened into "Let's all recycle.
And have a nice day too. Will that be paper or plastic?" These days,
recycling's biggest boosters are in the Fortune 500, notably plastics
While it's easy to see the attraction in recycling plastic - it feels
better to put waste in that recycling bin than in the trash - doing so
reinforces the idea that the solution lies in recycling rather than in not
producing so much in the first place.
John Byrne Barry, Berkeley