Fwd:Nominated for best response

Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:21:03 -0500

Grassroots Recycling Network folk,

My nomination for the best responses to the NY Times hit piece,

Forwarded message:
From: ilsr@igc.apc.org (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)
Sender: ilsr@igc.org
To: recpoly1@aol.com, dkirkwks@igc.apc.org, ricanthony@aol.com,
urbanor@aol.com, bill.sheehan@sierraclub.org
Date: 96-08-06 09:38:36 EDT

Following are a column by Institute Vice President David Morris and a
letter to the Editor of the Washington Times, both responding to recent
negative media on recycling.

Recycling and the New York Times
by David Morris

"Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America..."
Thus wrote John Tierney, a staff writer for the New York Times in a recent
Sunday magazine cover story. The article generated more mail than any
piece the magazine has
ever published and spawned a slew of Op Ed pieces by conservatives crowing
how the liberal Times finally had accepted their view of the world.

What makes the Times article and a similar front page story in the
Wall Street
Journal a year ago so interesting is that they are not attacking government
rather the American people. Recycling is not federally funded nor federally
mandated. Indeed until very recently the federal government far preferred
building super landfills and large incinerators to recycling. Recycling is a
bottoms up, grassroots, largely voluntary and hugely popular phenomenon.

Tierney is calling Americans stupid for recycling. But are we? As
himself concedes, recycling takes about a minute a day per household, saves
nation significant amounts of energy, reduces pollution and makes us feel
about ourselves. If this is a wasteful activity I can't wait to find out how
Tierney would describe America's favorite endeavor--sitting before a t.v. set
for 5 hours a day.

The Times and the Wall Street Journal insist that recycling is
yet study after study after study have concluded that recycling saves money.
Recycling costs less than traditional garbage collection and disposal when
cities achieve high levels of recycling, according to studies by the
Environmental Defense Fund, Ecodata Inc., my own organization, the
D.C. based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and many others.

It is true that in some cities recycling is expensive. But often
that is
because these cities are still recycling at very low rates and are treating
recycling as an add-on to their traditional garbage system rather than as a
replacement for it. Cities that maximize recycling save money by changing
their collection schedules and redesigning their collection trucks. In the
run they shift from a more expensive and capital intensive waste management
system to a cheaper and more flexible labor intensive system.

The Times' article went beyond an attack on the economics of
recycling to
attacked the whole notion of frugality. To Tierney we have enough space to
indefinitely throw away everything we buy and therefore we should do so. To
Tierney the environmental impact of throwing away a product is the same as it
in reusing or recycling that product. My grandmother would have washed his
mouth out with soap. Not only does this thesis violate common sense it also
contradicts dozens of empirical studies.

Mr. Tierney tells us not to worry about throwing zillions of tons
of garbage
into landfills because landfills don't poison the environment. But one out
every five Superfund toxic waste sites is a former municipal solid waste

Conservatives have been trying to make the case against recycling
for several
years. It's not an easy sell because they can't simply attack Washington and
Big Government. Recycling is done at the household and the local government
level. The number of municipal curbside recycling programs has increased
just two in 1970 to over 7,000 today because of citizen action. So when
conservatives attack recycling they have to attack almost all of us. Their
strategy is to convince us that frugality is foolish and fraudulent and even
reprehensible. That's what Mr. Tierney tried to do. Did he succeed? Two
thirds of the 1,000 people who wrote to the Times vehemently disagreed with
I have no idea what was guiding the thinking of the other third.

The case for recycling is strong. The bottom line is clear.
requires a trivial amount of our time. Recycling saves money and reduces
pollution. Recycling creates more jobs than landfilling or incineration.
And a
largely ignored but very important consideration, recycling reduces our need
dump our garbage in someone else's backyard.

Come to think of it, recycling just might be the most productive
activity in
modern America.

David Morris is Vice President of the Minneapolis, MN, and Washington, DC
Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The Washington Times, August 3, 1996

August 3, 1996, Saturday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 339 words

HEADLINE: Localities that recycle produce jobs, not landfills

In your July 20 Commentary section, Pete du Pont was correct when he
that the United States is not running out of landfill space ("Rubbish bin of
recycling"). However, Mr. du Pont is handicapped without the data that prove
the advantages of recycling - the powerful facts that recycling (1) is less
costly than disposal and (2) stimulates private investment, job creation and
economic growth.

Suggesting that recycling is a "well-financed" conspiracy indicates how
out-of-touch the former governor and his writing staff are with local
communities. The nationwide growth of recycling programs is the result of
citizens changing the "rules" so that government and industry will reduce
wasteful practices, thereby making the U.S. economy more competitive. In
District for example, citizens groups were instrumental in saving their

recycling program by proving that the city would save more than $2 million a
year by recycling.

Mr. duPont's only source of "data" is quotes from an essay in the New
Times Magazine by John Tierney. Unfortunately, what Mr. du Pont did not
to find is that Mr. Tierney's numbers, in fact, are consistently inaccurate.
Empirical data from cities and counties throughout the country document the
that recycling is the least-cost method of solid-waste disposal.
potential from recycling is 10 times more than from disposal. In addition,
recycling-based businesses are a major growth industry in our economy,
high-wage manufacturing jobs. For example, recycling-based paper mills and
plastic- product manufacturers employ 60 times more workers than do

Mr. du Pont, like Mr. Tierney, simply did not do his homework in
the overwhelming benefits of recycling over solid waste. Recycling could not
have gone from two curbside recycling programs in 1970 to 7,000 in 1996 if
were not true.


Institute for Local Self-Reliance

ilsr@igc.apc.org Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Phone:202-232-4108 2425 18th Street, NW
Fax: 202-332-0463 Washington, DC 20009
"Environmentally Sound Economic Development"