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4 Reasons Recycling Is Worth Its Associated Costs

June 10, 2014

Would you believe that recycling has its fair share of critics? It does – and while it might seem unreasonable – these people actually have some factual basis for their criticism.

In 1996, John Tierney, a columnist for the New York Times Magazine, famously claimed, “recycling is garbage.” He went on to say, “Mandatory recycling programs offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups – politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations and waste handling corporations – while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in America.”

This inflammatory claim sparked a debate that has spanned eighteen years. And arguing that recycling is not an economical option doesn’t completely defy logic. Recycling has associated costs, some of which are significant.

Back in 2002, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted an eighteen month moratorium on glass, plastic, and aluminum recycling – estimated to save the city $57 million – in favor of landfills. Facing a serious budget shortfall, Mayor Bloomberg clearly felt this was the “cheaper” and more sensible option, though he eventually bowed to public pressure and brought recycling back on a staggered schedule in 2003 and 2004.

But despite the assertions that recycling costs more than it’s worth, the benefits far outweigh the price tag. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Landfills only have limited space. When one reaches capacity, another one must be built to take its place. Siting a new location, buying the necessary land, constructing the landfill, and operating and maintaining it once it’s ready to go typically result in the new landfill costing more than the old one. Recycling programs allows old landfills to stay open longer, and reduces the need to build new ones.
  2. Recycling programs lessen the demand for virgin resources and raw materials. 
  3. Because it requires less energy to recycle materials than to process raw materials into products, we are spared unnecessary pollution and waste cleanup costs.
  4. Many of the costly problems associated with recycling programs, such as wasting resources with duplicate trash pickups, can be weeded out entirely with practice. As cities gain experience managing effective recycling programs, recycling materials should ultimately cost these taxpayers less than garbage disposal. 

When recycling programs are well-designed and well-run, they absolutely make economical sense. Still, it’s important to remember that “reduce” and “reuse” methods are even more effective still, and should be utilized whenever possible.

For more information on small business recycling or our other waste handling abilities, contact Hazardous Waste Experts today at 800-936-2311.

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

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