Should Recycling Be Mandatory?

Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Is recycling really going green with the environment? Or is recycling just a way to go for green material known as dollars? Recycling is a method in which materials that are not used anymore by people are processed in order to transform them in useful products. In the recent years, recycling has caused a lot of controversies whether if it is a good way to go green and help planet’s health or if it is just a big misconception driven by the media and the government.

Some experts in the issue affirm that this practice is still running because recycling was transformed into a political issue that helps government and environmentalists to win money and create jobs. Many people, politicians and non-profit organizations support recycling, generally based on misconceptions; while there are other people that do not support it based on facts. Recycling should not be mandatory because it is very expensive, it will not save the planet’s environment and it does not save natural resources.

Recycling is a method that appeared as a solution for the problems that environmentalists were having with landfill’s capacity and contamination of garbage around 1980’s. According to Christopher Douglass (2003), dramatic predictions of landfill closings created a crisis mentality in America. He also informs that the in 1988 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported to Congress that “one-third of all landfills in the United States would close by 1994 and that by 2008 nearly 80 percent of landfills would be shut down” (Douglass, 2003).

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The situation that the EPA presented to the Congress in 1988 seemed to be disastrous; but fortunately those predictions were all wrong. The problem with these predictions was that the government and environmentalists turned on red lights in order to solve this issue in a positive way that could help the planet’s environment. As a result, state and local governments had the idea of implementing a method that was supposed to reduce garbage, pollution and save resources: the government implemented recycling. Forty-four states established recycling goals in the late 1980’s (Douglass, 2003).

Recycling seemed to be a great process that was supposed to save resources, clean the environment and also make money. Local governments had the idea of making money by selling recovered household waste. The process of recycling, as explained by the government, looked like a miraculous way in which all problems of garbage would be solved and that not enough with it, it will also make money for the government. Recycling was a great Idea; it was the hope of the government and also for the citizens of the United States. “The recycling movement was amazing and successful at motivating action.

In 1989 most Americans chose the environment as their top priority for more government spending, ahead of even crime and health care, according to a National Opinion Research Center poll” (Douglass, 2003). The only problem with this movement was that its foundational notions were, in large part, misconceptions. Despite what the EPA said, there was no landfill crisis in the 1980’s. The new landfills opening in the 1990s were much larger in order to offset the high fixed costs of the new rules and today; landfill capacity is more than adequate (Douglass, 2003).

The beginning of this custom that is still practiced in our city is based in misconceptions and myths. On the other hand, many environmentalists and experts on the issue affirm that recycling is still a great process that contributes to conserve the planet’s environment and to save money. Many non-profit organizations and even schools interested in the wellness of the community, such as Joy Christian School, supports recycling and make ads in order to persuade people to recycle for a healthier world.

According to the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), well-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incineration. They also argue that the more people recycle, the cheaper it gets (Recycling Benefits, 2010). Organizations that support recycling usually discuss that recycling is not a waste of money and that sometimes it helps to save and earn more money. According to the NRC recycling creates 1. 1 million U. S. jobs. For every job collecting recyclables, there are 26 jobs in processing the materials and manufacturing them into new products (Recycling Benefits, 2010).

Even thought these facts seem to be a very good support for recycling, they are not. According to Douglass (2003), “the cost of collecting and sorting recyclables has exceeded their market prices in most parts of America, forcing most recycling programs to operate at a deficit”. It is more expensive to collect a ton of recyclables that a ton of landfill garbage. Many local government have been in the necessity of cancelling their recycling programs because after all, those programs always end operating at a deficit.

In addition, councilman Paul Thurman of Chillicothe, Ohio, a city that dropped its recycling program because of its high cost and little profit said, "To me, it's [the recycling program] just a waste of tax money” (as cited in Douglass, 2003). Recycling also creates many jobs, just as the NRC said, but the problem is that in many cases the local governments do not have the enough money to pay for all those new jobs created by recycling; and that is another reason why recycling programs usually operate at a deficit. Recycling is a very expensive method.

Recycling is not the solution to save natural resources; actually, in some cases it is responsible for wasting more resources. The idea that recycling will save all natural resources of the earth is just a myth; truly, in some cases the recycling processes waste more resources than the manufacturing process. Making recyclables generates waste. According to Peter Werbe (2003), all the water bottles are supposed to be recycled; but truly, just the ones with the number 1 or 2 printed at the bottom of the bottle can be recycled.

He also states that recycling these bottles are only slightly better than letting them go into a landfill. Actually, he is being generous because if people compute the energy needed to ship a leftover designer water bottle to China along with millions of others to be reprocessed, manufactured into a new item, then shipped back to the U. S. , transported to a mall, purchased, used, and finally landfilled; maybe it would be worse to recycle (Werbe, 2003). Even one of the best examples that environmentalist use to persuade people to recycle has had problems with the environment.

Recycling water bottles does not always helps the environment or saves recourses; actually, sometimes it produces more pollution due to the energy used to transport the bottles and process them. Recycling sometimes could be even harmful than beneficial. In addition, there is another factor to consider when people think about saving resources: the scarcity. Yet there is no environmental reason to recycle trash because resources are not scarce. For example, another example that environmentalist usually use trying to persuade people to recycle is paper.

They argue that if people ecycle paper sheets or newsprint, the beautiful trees that maintain our jungles and landscapes gorgeous will be saved instead of converted into newsprint; but the reality is that those arguments are false. In fact, much newsprint comes from trees grown for that specific purpose (Bandow, 2006). Considering this factor, when people recycle paper they are not saving our beautiful landscapes, they are just saving trees that were planted for that specific purpose and also saving the money of the big companies that need to plant trees in order to produce paper to sell.

Another reason of why recycling should not be mandatory is because garbage is not harmful for people and recycling not always protects ecosystems. People should know one extremely important thing; folks recycle because they think it is a good thing to do, but what is the real point of being a green person? Are people really saving the world’s health by recycling stuff? The truth is that garbage will not damage the society and recycling is not the miraculous method that will save the ecosystems in the earth.

As time goes by through the past of the years, garbage accumulates, but also disappears thanks to they new technologies created in order to have a solution for garbage problems. The arguments that establish that our garbage will bury us and that it will also poison us are completely false. According to Daniel K. Benjamin (2006), since the 1980s, people repeatedly have claimed that the United States faces a landfill crisis. The United States today has more landfill capacity than ever before.

In 2001, the nation's landfills could accommodate 18 years' worth of rubbish, an amount 25 percent greater than a decade before. Nowadays is pretty clear that we are not going to be full of garbage in the future. The myths that stated that in a few years there would be no more landfill spaces for garbage in the United States were completely false, but the good new is that nowadays the mentioned misconception is completely denied. In addition, there were many people who argued that the garbage sent to landfills could produce deaths in the country.

They think that the toxic substances produces by the garbage could reach cities and cause dangerous diseases to people. Again the good new is that they were wrong. According to Benjamin (2006), the Environmental Protection Agency itself acknowledges that the risks to humans from modern landfills are virtually nonexistent: Modern landfills can be expected to cause 5. 7 cancer-related deaths over the next 300 years. To put this in perspective, cancer kills over 560,000 people every year in the United States.

In a few words, there is technically no risk for humans to die because of the accumulation of toxic substances produced by the trash that is in landfills. In addition, it is interesting to know how garbage and not going green sometimes deal with different kind of subjects that apparently people did not have idea about before. Recycling is a process that in a good point of views cuts pollution but that is not always. Recycling can reduce pollution but when is time to recycle things it produces almost the same pollution it prevented before.

So what is it the point of recycle? The EPA has examined both virgin paper processing and recycled paper processing for toxic substances and found that toxins often are more prevalent in the recycling processes (Benjamin, 2006). People should know that in occasions recycling produces more pollution than the ones that it is supposed to save. If people think that recycling is supposed to save the environment, how can it cause more pollution than the normal garbage process? The answer again is misconceptions. Finally, recycling needs more money than people think.

When we hear recycling, one of the first words that come to our mind right away is save; save money, save resources, save the world. All this since there is too many people who assume that recycling is a right thing to do. Experts have been doing research about recycling and its expenses, is it really worth to invest those big amounts of money in just going green? We all would like to have a yes answer to that question; unfortunately we obtain a different answer, an opposing one. The reality is that collecting recyclable items is more expensive than collecting just garbage to landfills.

John Tierney (2006), a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, points out that “collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill”. All of this because when people want to recycle they have to separate all stuff depending on how is it classified. It takes a lot of time to classify, but also transport to go back and forward for each thing.

Instead if people collect all the garbage at once, they would save time and money, but also carbon dioxide would be less produced by the trucks used to pick up the garbage. It is unbelievable the amount of money that is invested on recycling. All green products are more expensive than products that are not recycled, and that is because it costs too much to recycle. Another important fact is that recycling programs usually operate in a deficit. According to Douglass (2003), “the cost of collecting recyclables is about $139 per ton for programs that recycle old newsprint and magazines.

The cost of sorting these recyclables averages $86 per ton, and the benefits from avoiding land-filling fees is typically $27 per ton, for a net cost of $198 per ton. The majority of recyclables collected yield less than $198 per ton at 1998 prices”. This is a great problem. How does recycling is supposed to be mandatory if recycling programs usually operate in a deficit? It is very difficult for local government to maintain these recycling programs because sometimes the local budget is limited and waste money in a program that operates in a deficit is a very bad idea.

For example, in 1998 Chillicothe, Ohio dropped its $220,00 recycling program because the money that the government was investing in recycling could be better used in more important city needs, such as a new aerial ladder truck for their fire department. Accordant to this problem, Chillicothe councilman Paul Thurman said, "To me, it's [the recycling program] just a waste of tax money” (as cited in Douglass, 2003). The government of that city has already the experience needed to know the truth about recycling programs and the only cause that they produce: waste of money.

Recycling seems to be useful just for people who still believe all the myths about it and have not yet discovered the truth about this method. Nowadays, recycling should not be mandatory because it is very expensive, and in the big majority of the occasions the recycling programs operate in a deficit that produces financial problems in local governments. In addition, the myth about landfill spaces is completely false because nowadays there are a lot of landfills with great technology that eliminates the risk of poison people because of the garbage.

Finally, it is proved that recycling does not always save resources and in some cases, it wastes more energy or water than the normal garbage process. The question now is: how can such a wasteful practice persist? John Tierney (2006) answered this question concluding that; “this practice persists by turning garbage into a political issue, where environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

Environmentalists may enuinely believe they're helping the Earth, but they have been hurting the common good while profiting personally". Tierney provide a great response for such a controversial question. The politicians who feel pressure by environmentalists are the ones who still support recycling in order to maintain their good political status. On the other hand, environmentalist may think that they are really helping the health of the world, but something that is really truth is that they are being directly beneficiated because of the continuity of recycling.

Do they really want to go green or do they prefer to go for the green material named dollars? The real intention of environmentalists is something that only they know. People may feel confortable with recycling because they could think that they are helping; and if they feel good about themselves they are free to continue with this wasteful practice, but the government should reveal the truth about recycling in order to clarify the misconceptions about this topic.

If after that people still want to recycle they are still free to do so. As Tierney (2006) states, “it is time for an environmental reformation, in which lawmakers change public policy to reflect the wastefulness of recycling”. All the citizens that trust in recycling have the right to know the real situation that involves their “miraculous” method and to clarify their misconceptions. After people know the real pros and cons about recycling it would be very easy for the majority to know if recycling should be mandatory or not.

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Should Recycling Be Mandatory?. (2017, Apr 12). Retrieved from

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