Recycling huh,..... what is it good for....

So while I wait for national novel writting month and while I work up the energy to finish my last post on the credit crises I'd like to talk about recycling and why it is bad.

Most people get kind of angry when I say that.

I ask you this, can you name a material, besides aluminum, that you don't have to pay to get recycled? The answer is likely no because besides aluminum it does cost money to recycle.

The problem is that the primary cost of most things with suitable competition is energy. It is actually kind of a fun game to go back through the manufacturing and lifetime of a product and to see how much of its cost is related to energy the main premise here is that raw meterials do not technically cost anything. They exist. What costs us is the process of moving them and changing them to suit our needs. However, even the tools necessary to refine a raw material had to come from a raw material themselves.

The end result is that the cost of an item is a fairly good estimate of the amount of energy that went into producing it.

So, if it actually costs money to recycle trash then it must be that it costs more energy then it would have taken to just use the raw material.

Most energy, in the united states anyway, is produced by coal or natural gas. Both of which produce polutents and CO2 in spades. So recycling increases both of these. You are, in a sense, trading one form of polution for another.

The same goes for using hybrid cars. If a car costs more then you would save in gas then you are not doing the environment a favor. The only way to reduce polution is to reduce consumption.

In other words: buy a compact car, don't buy crap, pay attention to redundent packaging (the cost of bottled water is mostly the bottle) and be more frugal with more obvious energy wasters like leaving computers/lights on constantly or running the heater/air conditioner excessively.


Blogger M Tai said...

dude, you sound like me in this blog... Republican. :-D haha! good point on the bottled water though - those things are really only worth having as emergency stash in your vehicle (i.e., in times of bad weather). hope you are well!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Craig Snoeyink said...

Republican... *shiver*. :-)

I have a feeling both Republicans and Democrats would disagree: Democrats because I am basically saying don't recycle and Republicans because I am basically saying don't spend money. :-)

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember talking with you about this a year ago after we DeTrashed the Wabash. I disagreed then and still do! So here goes:

You say: "so, if it actually costs money to recycle trash then it must be that it costs more energy then it would have taken to just use the raw material."

This is, my friend, the fatal flaw in your argument. Take aluminum, for example. It takes approximately 95% less energy to produce recycled aluminum than it does to produce aluminum from bauxite ore. If you also add in the calculated financial cost of retrieving and transporting the recycled aluminum versus mining the ore, again recycled material is the clear winner.

Part two. Let it be the case, as Bill Clinton suggests, that we can cap many landfills and use the biofuel produced in the breakdown of the mass there. The question is: would the fuel produced by the breakdown of recyclable materials make up for the fuel used in the collection and production of mined and manufactured materials? The answer is obviously no.

Recyclable materials that are instead improperly discarded either a) wind up in landfills or b) are incinerated. b) is I hope obviously an environmental and economic no-no. The only purpose to incinerating trash is to decrease the burden on landfills. Very few plants, even today, utilize the heat produced. Those that do cannot produce enough fuel to offset the environmental impact of the burning. The same argument can be made against landfills.

The federal "reduce, reuse, recycle" campaign of the early 1990s was a carefully planned attempt to recover materials both for environmental protection and also economic advantage. These two are the old one-two punch against opponents of recycling.

I think you're right and that both Republicans and Democrats would disagree with you. That just goes to show that even politicians value rationality. :)

3:05 PM  

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