Tuesday, June 03, 2008

When To Recycle and When To Not

There are four plastic bags near the front door of my parents' house each stuffed with a few weeks worth of newspaper bags. This is my mom's latest attempt to save the world. In her infinite foresight she's gathering these bags to "keep them out of the landfill." She plans to send them back to the newspaper company so they can reuse them. I somehow doubt they will.

Plastic bags are tremendously cheap, evidence in that are giving them away to customers. They still cost the company something but I doubt it'll be worth sorting through the bags to reuse them. Recycling's expensive and often not worth the time and effort. Though in some cases, like recycling cans, it is. People are willing to pay for the savings it brings. Note soda cans are one of the few places you are paid to recycle.

Recycling reduces space used in a landfill but so what? Is landfill space really so scarce that this is worth it? If it is, why aren't we charged per bag or per pound thrown out? Part of this is due to the city-run industry but the a bigger factor is that landfills aren't hurting for space, particularly out here in Iowa.

If you're not being charged to throw it out and if no one's willing to compensate you for your time it's not worth recycling. See a past post on this subject here.

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