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[GreenYes] Response to editorial in The Vancouver Sun
Re:  Canadian recycling vs. landfill piece
(See [Greenyes Digest], Tuesday, October 29, 2002, Volume 03: Number 138)

Michael Jessen's proposed commentary, in response to last Monday's
editorial in The Vancouver Sun*, on the list serve is extremely helpful;
demonstrating that unless you drive a stake through the heart of the
anti-recycling people, they will keep coming back like a 500-year-old

Michael Jessen's arguments are excellent, but we need the data showing that
recycling is more expensive than landfilling. I have looked at the data from
many jurisdictions that claim recycling is more costly than landfilling.
In most cases, it turns out that: 1) The assumptions are wrong; 2) The
data is miscalculated; and 3) The costs of recycling can be brought down rapidly
with modest investment. This has held true in Washington, DC where past
administrations tried to kill the curbside recycling program twice.
Current investments and reconfiguration of equipment make recycling a
bargain -- albeit a small one -- at this time. Over time, disposal costs
rise and recycling costs decrease. The decrease in recycling costs has
nothing to do with markets. It has to do with cutting routes and avoided
disposal fees. These same facts and trends are true for New York City.
In DC, we have access to the data. In NYC, the city hides the data behind
Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) Requests and contradictory releases of

*The author, Fazil Mihlar, is an editorial writer who has ties to the
Fraser Institute -- a right-wing think tank based in Vancouver. The
newspaper's online presence is at

Unfortunately, we are unable to track down the original editorial.
Michael Jessen said that it also appeared in a newspaper in Halifax,
Nova Scotia.

A response to the editorial was published on Monday, November 4, 2002,
and appears below.

Irresponsible manufacturers get free Blue Box ride

Helen Spiegelman 
Vancouver Sun 

Monday, November 04, 2002

Fazil Mihlar has squandered an opportunity to shed some real
sense on recycling economics (Let's look sensibly at recycling
economics, Oct. 28). Instead, he tries to peddle old ideas that
have less appeal than yesterday's newspaper. 

He should have explained that recycling economics is a hopeless
mess because of perverse subsidies to the producers of
throwaway products and packaging. Cities and towns dig
into taxpayers' pockets to provide "free" collection and
disposal of virtually anything consumers don't want any more.

According to the inexorable laws of the marketplace, this has encouraged producers
and consumers to indulge in an orgy of consumption and disposal.
Three-quarters of the trash that goes out to the curb is products and
packaging that were designed to be thrown away. Today's trash includes
toxic TVs (up to five kilos of soluble lead in each picture tube) and
poison computers (not only lead, but cadmium and PVC laced with toxic
fire retardant chemicals). Guess who will pay the clean-up costs?

Luckily, British Columbia's cities and towns have shown more common
sense than either Prof. James McDavid or Mr. Mihlar. They have spoken
out clearly and repeatedly in support of Industry Product Stewardship,
which ends the taxpayer subsidy of trash and requires producers to clean
up after their own products without resort to landfills and
incinerators. Again according to the laws of the marketplace, this will
eventually drive producers to design products that can be safely and
economically recycled. No more free ride in the Blue Box.

Helen Spiegelman
Vice President
Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

Neil Seldman

Institute for Local Self-Reliance
2425 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-4108
(202) 332-0463 [fax]
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