Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Economic and Environmental Impacts of Recycling

Great article at Popular Mechanics.

Notice the "chicken and egg" problem and the importance of local conditions.


Drew Moxon said...

This article actually reminds me of a parallel seen with alternative energy: do what is right for the area. Obviously, there will be different prices for different raw materials in different parts of the country. I wonder how much the cost of transportation of recylcled raw materials would make sense? Eg: If the price for recycled plastic in NJ is higher than in NC, would it be economical (and by economical I mean including the environmental costs in the CBA) to transport the raw material for sale in NJ? I realize that the article gives the example of paper and China, but I'm wondering if it would work on just a national level to (for probably higher transportation costs/mile since the containers going to China were probably already on a return trip anyway...aka, sunk cost)?

Drew Moxon said...

For anyone interested, here's how the recent economic problems have caused a downturn in the recycled raw materials market...

Mandy Isaac said...

Wow! That was a really insightful article. I'm somewhat obsessed and confused in the concept of reclycling. Obsessed because I preach to everyone to do it and confused why everyone in the world is not forced to recyle. Anyways, I have been wanting to find some good information on reclycing to give me a little more insight on the issue. It referenced a lot of resources that I would like to further investigate as well.
The article that Drew posted was particularly depressing as a recycling advocate. My favorite part of that article was this:
“Before, you could be green by being greedy,” said Jim Wilcox, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “Now you’ve really got to rely more on your notions of civic participation.”
Wouldn't it be nice if all states paid you to turn in your bottles and cans? It sure would help out my poor college student budget. Instead I am left taking my own reclying to the facility every week simply because of my concern for the environment. Unfortunately it all comes down to costs and benefits and it seems that both are consistantly fluxuating.

Do you know if anyone has done a study in Wilmington on recycling? Or is there a way a group of students or teachers could work on this? I think it would be really interesting to research the costs and benefits for consumers, trash companies, recylcing companies, the environment, etc. to find out how local conditions play a part in our slack recylcing system. (I say slack because I'm bitter that they don't pick up here.)