America Finally Admits Recycling Doesn’t Work
It’s time to admit the recycling mania is a giant placebo.
A couple of years ago, after sending my five-year-old daughter off to school, she came home reciting the same cheerful environmental mantra I was taught in elementary school.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle,” she beamed, proud to show off a bit of rote learning.
Recycling makes people feel good, but the idea that it improves the condition of humans or the planet is highly dubious.
The moral virtue of recycling is rarely questioned in the United States. It has been ingrained into the American psyche over several decades. On a recent trip to the Caribbean, my friend’s wife exhibited nervous guilt while collecting empty soda, water, and beer bottles destined for the trash since our resort offered no recycling bins.
“I feel terrible throwing these into garbage,” she said, wearing a pained look on her face.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there was a good chance the bottles she was recycling back in the States were ending up just like the ones on the Caribbean island we were visiting.
As Discover magazine pointed out a decade ago, recycling is tricky business. A 2010 Columbia University study found that just 16.5 percent of the plastic collected by the New York Department of Sanitation was “recyclable.”
“This results in nearly half of the plastics collected being landfilled,” researchers concluded.