Why Some People Believe that Recycling is a Waste of Time- The Other side of the Argument

When started my research on the other side of the Recycling Argument, all I found where articles that explained how people were either too lazy to clean the items and recycle properly or misinformed about how to recycle properly. However, I found an opinion piece in the New York times from October 2015, that explained a different story.

In the Reign of Recycling, writer John Tierney explains his reasonings for not recycling and instead throwing everything back in the trash. He starts the article with telling the reader that back in 1996 he wrote a long article for the New York Times Magazine that argued how the process of recycling is actually very wasteful. He goes onto explain that since the modern recycling movement had just begun a few years earlier, many of the defenders explained that it would flourish as the industry matured and the public learned how to recycle properly. Unfortunately, as we can tell from China’s new laws and regulations against the United State’s recycling policies, it looks like the majority of people in the United States do not actually know how to recycle properly. Even then, according to Tierney it looks like the process doesn’t limit the amount of pollution and it actually cost more to recycle than to send items straight into the landfill. These two reasons are among the many that makes people believe that recycling isn’t worth putting effort into.

He then goes onto explain that it is typically more expensive to recycle household waste than it is to send it to the landfill. This is a big statement that he doesn’t back up with any sort of article or citation. Towards the end of the article he does explain that it takes 300 dollars more to recycle something than it does to throw it into the landfill. However, he doesn’t explain if that is per item, per day, per month, or per year. He then goes onto to explain that prices for recycled materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies.


He also explains that politicians set higher and higher goals, when the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. This is a statement that I have read in a few articles about recycling. However, it looks like more popular areas are starting to switch away from focusing on recycling, and taking part in banning plastic bags, straws, and other items that are not cost effective to recycle. He then explains that areas such as the Bronx and Houston, who are lower income, don’t have time to sort the garbage in their spare time. This implies that it takes extra time to recycle- I want to believe that he is alluding to the lack of information for residents, which is something I agree with.

As the article continues, he begins to provide more examples to help back up his big statements at the beginning. However, he also adds a few false claims to help back up his case. When he  explains that as more cities and towns moved beyond the simple paper and metal recycling system to include glass, food waste, assorted plastics, the cost rose sharply. Unfortunately, as we all know you cannot recycle food waste. Yes, you can compost it, but very few cities and towns have begun to start composting. Also, composting and recycling are not the same thing. He even brings in a statement from the Chief Executive Officer of the Waste Management in New York City David P. Steiner, “If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront….Trying to turn garbage into gold cost a lot more than expected. We need to ask ourselves: What is the goal here?” I don’t know about you, but my goal has always to been to help limit the amount of new plastic that is being created and instead use whatever is being recycled. Yes it may cost more, but it is better for our overall health and the planet.

I will not continue to go paragraph by paragraph to explain everything that is wrong with this article as he continues to use the same ridiculous examples and lack of information as reasons not to recycle. However, I do believe that the main problem when it comes to recycling is that their is a ton of misinformation out there around how to recycle properly. Thus explaining how the majority of our items usually end up in the landfill. This confusion also allows people to believe that they can’t/ shouldn’t recycle.

I am not sure how much it actually cost for us to recycle and how much pollution that recycling may put into our atmosphere. I also do believe that these are still important factors in the recycling discussion, especially since the money is coming from tax payers money. Towards the end of the article he explains that our nation’s fear around the landfills is not realistic as back in 1996, he found an article that explained how all of the trash generated by Americans in the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. To that I say, why do we have the great garbage patch or garbage island. It’s important to hear all sides when it comes to making your final decisions/stand on a particular issue. However, it’s also important to note when the information may be outdated and no longer true.