Monday, October 27, 2008

Recycling myths, fact or fiction?

I always enjoy reading from the extreme sides of an issue in toward the middle. I suspect that reality usually lies somewhere in between extreme viewpoints, so I like to tackle issues by reading from the outside in.

It helps to know what both sides are shouting about (and convenently ignoring) when trying to find that elusive rascal called truth. For example, I regularly listen to both Sean Hannity (far right on just about everything) and Keith Olbermann (far left on just about everything). I also always read Charles Krauthammer (right wing writer for the Washington Post) and Paul Krugman (Princeton economics Professor, recent Nobel prize winner and New York Times writer who is usually to the left of things).

Personally, I don't completely agree with any of these people, but understanding their perspective helps me figure out my own. I definitly agree with some of these guys more than others by the way, and on some issues more than others, but being a good, objective instructor of economics, I'm going to keep that bit of information to myself. ;)

In EVS/ECN 330 we've been talking about trash and recycling (CERMES students should be reading that lecture about this same time), so here are a couple of opposing viewpoints to consider:

In the right corner we have PERC (Property and Environment Research Center)

In the left corner we have EDF (The Environmental Defense Fund)

Happy reading!


Antonio Joyette said...

As far as I reason, recycling makes dollars and it makes sense. There will always be people who resist on the principle that they don't like "being forces" to do something. But if you thing of it absolutely, we are all being forced to do something. Often times this is done subliminally; below our level of awareness. Pressures of norms and peers are some of the forces that have positive and negative influences.

Just because you are aware that the government wants you to recycle does not make it a bad thing. If resources can be made from trash why not. It will save us from destroying the planet to find more. By the way increasing natural resources is not necessarily a good thing. The associated externalities can neutralize or negate those benefits.

Words are very important and PERC.ORG shows how they can be used. Just recycle!

Natalie Bennett said...

I think that recycling makes sense. Of course it costs money, like everything else does, but it allows us to reuse some of our resources more than once. I also think that the reason recycling has not been a bigger trend is because people are skeptical, and people are afraid to change the way they do things. Recycling might not be the solution to our problems but I think that it is a step in the right direction.

Brad Coffey said...

By comparison, it seems like the PERC arguments are based on small statistics ignoring the overall picture versus the EDF that has a wider variety of examples to debunk some of the claims that "recycling is garbage". Neither side wants to show negatives against their cause which is understandable, but even with the arguments presented, it seems recycling is still a much more efficient means of using and preserving resources.

The landfill topic is particularly interesting to me. It doesn't sound like the opponents of recycling are in the least bit concerned about running out of places to bury our trash, nor its toxicity potential. This concerns me just because of the exponential growth in population that our planet is experiencing. Exponentially increased population means exponentially increased waste. It seems to me that without recycling as a buffer, the NIMBY (Not in my back yard) perspective will not be a choice at some later period in time.

Brandon Hamm said...

I feel like the EDF article made a much better argument on befalf of recycling than the PERC article could make against the practice. PERC did however bring up some relevant points in that as our society progresses we bring technology into more and more of our projects such as landfill designs which now incorporate multiple plastic liners, clay bottoms, and leechate collection systems making them much more efficient at containing all types of wastes.

However, just because we have developed new ways to effectively store our refuse, it doesnt negate the need or effectiveness of efficient recyling programs. The argument from PERC that collecting recycling is like collecting 800 times as opposed to 400 times a week creating more pollution from burning fuels in the trucks, tires used, steel to build them, and so on. This argument assumes that using new resources creates no, or at least significantly less pollution than mining the material, smelting or seperating, shipping, manufacuring, and shipping again. Then the product still must be transported and dumped into a landfill where machines such as bulldozers are still being used to burn more fuel.

I think most of us can see that the middle ground is probalby closest to optimal, and that neither side can be the best or only solution every time.

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