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[GreenYes] Re: Is MSW recycling the best policy?


Alan,

Then I take it that you're not in a University town?

Where in Delaware are you and does anybuddy recall why corporations charter or chartered so often in Delaware?


Mike
----- Original Message -----
From: Alan Muller
To: stephan.pollard@no.address ; Green Yes
Sent: Friday, September 22, 2006 1:08 PM
Subject: [GreenYes] Re: Is MSW recycling the best policy?




At 12:05 PM 9/22/2006 -0500, Stephan Pollard wrote:

All,

In the interest of opening up what has the potential to be an enlightening and healthy discussion I am curious as to the various perspectives people may have on the following cited peer-reviewed article's assertion that the goal of MSW recycling (presumedly that of the US) should not be to increase MSW recycling but rather to increase environmental quality and the sustainability of the economy" and that "from a review of the existing economic experience with recycling and an analysis of the environmental benefits (including estimation of external social costs)... for most communities, curbside recycling is only justifiable for some postconsumer waste, such as aluminum and other metals."

Well, I really don't want to comment on a paper without having read it, and the text of this 1999 paper is not available on line except (apparently) for $25 and I'm not that curious. But it seems very unlikely that the authors' quantifications of health and environmental impacts ("(including estimation of external social costs)")
would seem sufficient to me, nor is it likely that a 1999 paper reflects current pricing of oil and recyclables. Or takes climate change seriously. Most recent review papers, trying to look at the universe of garbage management literature, seem to suggest that most studies favor recycling.

More to my point though: I am an activist, and tend to see this issue in terms of the actual experiences of communities having to live next to dumps and incinerators. These are morally indefensible, abstractions aside.

I agree that one should not obsess on "recycling" to the exclusion of all else. Much gets to the curb that doesn't need to be there.

Have a good weekend.

Alan Muller
Green Delaware



The authors say that, "curbside recycling of postconsumer metals can save money and improve environmental quality if the collection, sorting, and recovery processes are efficient" and that "curbside collection of glass and paper is unlikely to help the environment and sustainability save in special circumstances."

The authors go on to suggest that deposit/refund schemes might be advantageous but that "if consumers make a special trip to return recoverable materials, the energy required is likely to exceed the energy saved by recovery." In addition, that significant benefits might be accrued in product takeback schemes.

Best Regards,
Stephan


Lave, L.B., Hendrickson, C.T., Conway-Schempf, N.M., McMichael, F.C., 1999. Municipal solid waste recycling issues. Journal of Environmental Engineering 125(10): 944-949.

Abstract:
Municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling targets have been set nationally and in many states. Unfortunately, the definitions of recycling, rates of recycling, and the appropriate components of MSW vary. MSW recycling has been found to be costly for most municipalities compared to landfill disposal. MSW recycling policy should be determined by the cost to the community and to society more generally. In particular, recycling is a good policy only if environmental impacts and the resources used to collect, sort, and recycle a material are less than the environmental impacts and resources needed to provide equivalent virgin material plus the resources needed to dispose of the postconsumer material safely. From a review of the existing economic experience with recycling and an analysis of the environmental benefits (including estimation of external social costs), we find that, for most communities, curbside recycling is only justifiable for some postconsumer waste, such as aluminum and other metals. We argue that alternatives to curbside recycling collection should be explored, including product takeback for products with a toxic content (such as batteries) or product redesign to permit more effective product remanufacture.






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