[GRRN] More on Betsy Hart opinion essay on recycling

Pablo Collins (collins@csandh.com)
Tue, 9 Nov 1999 15:21:23 -0500

Betsy Hart appears to have company. You may want to follow the attached
URL to an article from Tuesday's Christian Science Monitor.

Recycling revolution loses its fervor, Christian Science Monitor,
Tuesday November 9, 1999

The back and forth on the Hart article is fascinating, much like the
discussion on the Tierny article --- calls for reasoned responses mixed
with righteous indignation. Unfortunately, I have never seen anyone
pick apart Tierny's and Hart's arguments, which are fundamentally
flawed. Both say that recycling is a waste of time and money, pointing
to curbside collection and abundance of landfill capacity as their
primary evidence. Neither recognizes, and no one points out, that the
curbside recovery is just a small portion of the recycling stream.

The paper, metal, and glass recycling industries got started long before
they were judged to be good public or environmental policy. Recycling
businesses were built for the fundamental reason that people thought
they could make a profit at it. (I know, I know, in some circles profit
is a dirty word and profit motives are suspect.) Curbside collection is
a relatively new phenomenon, which at best supplies only a miniscule
part of the recycling stream. It takes a lot of steel cans to make up
for one car or even a washing machine. I dare not even guess the number
of households it takes to generate the same amount of recovered paper as
comes out of one large supermarket on a weekly basis.

If Hart and Tierny are of open mind (doubtful) they might be able to
distinguish between municipal collection programs and private industry
efforts to make a profit from other people's scrap and discards. But
even if Hart and Tierny are closed minded, we must continue to make an
effort to educate others --- like their editors and readers. This is
reason enough to support America Recycles Day.

I fear that until we recognize and teach others that a) curbside
collection is a municipal service rather than a profit center, and that
b) recycling as a whole is a commercially viable industry, we will
continue to be pummeled by ignorant naysayers like Hart and Tierny.