Regarding the Washington Post article, over the
years I have heard Mr. Porter make some strange
comments but luckily, the audience has either
been small enough or astute enough that the
damage is controllable. Given his credentials,
one would think that a person in Mr. Porter's
position would know better. Living up to last
year's resolution to be kinder, I could suppose
that his comments were taken out of context by
the reporter. Living up to this year's
resolution that it is easier to accomplish my
goal if the goal is to bring everyone else down
to my level, I could suppose that this is just
what Mr. Porter said. Alas, when I put these
comments into the context of the others, I must
conclude that he did indeed say that.His comments
in this vast arena give me the shivers and I was
wondering if anyone else had the same reaction.
Maybe we just need a simple fact sheet on
recycling that addresses the basic issues of 1.
What does recycling cost? 2. What does trash
cost? 3. What is included in "cost?" 4. Why is
the easier and cheaper way the "better" way? 5.
What is "better" anyway? Better for whom, better
when, better than what? 6. Is the value of
recycling absolute or is it on a continuum? Is
the value measured discretely by each local
government involved in collection programs or is
it to be measured in the regional, statewide,
national and global aggregate? 7. Is the benefit
to be measured in the short term (as in "I must
have money in the bank: I have still have
checks!) or is it to be measured in the long
terms (as in mutual funds when we have to stay in
it for the long term if we want a return on our
investment). 8. If the process of recycling
produces pollution, isn't there a baseline
against which the amount of pollution should be
measured or are we again looking at an "absolute"
versus "relative" impact.
After I read Mr. Porter's comments about having
already captured the "easy -to-get stuff" and his
query of whether we really want to collect and
recycle "hot dog wrappers and kitty litter" I
then came across an article by Chaz Miller in
which he is discussing the "value" of recycling
and makes a comment about the "law of diminishing
returns." I respect Mr. Miller and have for a
long time so I am not trying to put him into an
association with Mr. Porter. I mention Chaz
because the concept of the law of diminishing
returns is more appropriate when examining the
dregs of a program or the dregs of a population
base and you try to determine if the financial
cost outweighs the environmental benefit. It
seems to me that Mr. Porter has started in on the
law of diminishing returns not in relation to the
dregs of the program but way before the national
apex has been reached.
These little wars keep cropping up because we do
not have a united vision on recycling. It's a
large country and we are very fragmented. I see
the division as analogous to democrats versus
republicans. The republicans ask "what is the
immediate financial cost?" and the democrats tend
to reply "who cares,it's for kids and grandkids."
Neither side validates the other's view and the
dichotomy continues. When do we get to a party
of "demolicans" or "republicrats" who agree that
it is inherently wrong to waste our resources
just because we can and because it is easier?
When do we agree that "cost" is not simply a
matter of dollars? When do we agree that the
philosphy of recycling is good because it is a
long-term strategy based on conservation of what
we have? When do we agree that when dealing with
the dregs, it does not make sense to go after the
small amounts be they small amounts of materials
in small communities or be they small amounts
left over after the majority has been recycled.
Maybe there is one party that will come out of
this all: the Redems. Now there's an idea!
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