Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:22:18 -0500

[Forwarded from Betsy Dorn]

Here is my response sent to the New York Times. Thanks for giving me the
e-mail addresses.

I simply do not understand how or why John Tierney could have dreamed up the
garbage he put in his article on recycling appearing in the June 30, 1996
edition of the New York Times Magazine.

Recycling is one of the oldest, most established industries in our nation.
Look in any telephone book in any city and you will see some recycling
businesses listed. Is this not ample evidence that recyclables have value,
that recycling makes economic sense, and that recycling serves an important
role in supplying materials for use in manufacturing as well as providing

With regard to municipal involvement in recycling, it is true that there are
net costs associated with providingf curbside recycling service. However,
there are also substantial costs with providing garbage collection and
disposal service. Furthermore, the vast majority of people believe recycling
makes a contribution to protecting the environment, want to participate in
recycling, and expect their local governments to provide them with convenient
opportunities to do so.

Recycling, on a per-household basis is cheap in
comparison to the cost of doing other things that make us feel good, such as
shopping at the mall or going to sports events, not to mention far less
wasteful. If people want to recycle and feel good about participating in
recycling, why is it wrong for government to provide access to recycling
services, particularly when doing so has numerous benefits, such as
conserving landfill space, creating jobs, and providing resources for use in
product manufacturing?

Some would argue that it isn't fair to make everyone pay for recycling
services when not everyone uses them. However, the same could be said for
providing libraries, art museums, parks -- or from the perspective of
recyclers, more frequent garbage collection service than is necessary. It is
this latter reason that pay-as-you-throw financing policies are becoming
increasingly prevalent, for people are then charged in accordance with the
amount of service they utilize.

In my opinion, what is really not fair is expecting future generations to
bear the financial burden and the public and environmental health risks
associated with leaking landfill sites used today. John Tierney asserts in
his article that landfills are "environmentally safe" and that "there's
little reason to worry about modern landfills, which by Federal law must be
lined with clay and plastic, equipped with drainage and gas-collection
systems, covered daily with soil and monitored regularly for underground
leaks." Does Mr. Tierney really believe that these landfills will never
leak? The Federal Environmental Protection Agency sure doesn't believe this
or it wouldn't require monitoring for leaks. The costs of managing gas
migration and leachate from leaking landfills is very high. While some money
for post-closure care may be included in landfill prices paid today, much of
these costs will be borne by our children and our children's children.
Furthermore, leachate and gas monitoring and collection systems are not fail
safe. Surely Mr. Tierney does not have that much faith in technology and the
skill of humans involved in designing and constructing all of the landfills
in use today.

One cannot help but wonder why Mr. Tierney decided to spend his time drafting
this very off-track, biased article on recycling. But what is even harder to
understand is why New York Times Magazine chose to publish it. Is it because
the New York Times is a major contributor of recyclable paper that often gets
landfilled? Is it because the New York Times might not like the fact that
newsprint paper prices rose substantially last year and somehow thinks
recycling is to blame? Or, is it perhaps that the City of New York is in the
midst of a major waste management controversy due to the closure of the Fresh
Kills Landfill (a far from "safe" landfill, I might add).

I expect more objective journlism from a publication of this caliber, as I am
sure do many other readers.

Betsy Dorn
1109 Holt Road
Apex, NC 27502