My report is on the cost and effects of recycling on the environment. Recycling costs the US billions of dollars each year. Everyone agrees that pollution is a global problem, my problem is that I do not see the point of wasting billions of dollars on it. There are other things we can spend our money on, like education or finding better jobs for people. I believe I have strong views on this topic. I realize everybody may not understand my views, but they are still my views.
Lately the earth s capacity to tolerate exploitation and absorb solid wastes disposal has diminished due to excess trashing. People dispose of lots of stuff, and simply do not care. Therefore scientists discovered a way to reuse things in a process was called “recycling”. This new approach seemed quite successful in the beginning, until its true identity appeared. Recycling first started as man s best friend; people were intrigued by this new phenomenon. What could be better than using things that were already used? Recycling has been very useful especially that man is constantly consuming, burning up, wearing out, replacing, and disposing at an alarming rate. However, unfortunately recycling has proven that it is quite costly. Although recycling of waste material solves the problem of garbage disposal at landfills, and saves resources, it does nevertheless entail large hidden costs in collecting, sorting and manufacturing. Therefore, it is necessary for the government to overcome such problems of recycling to be worthwhile and for manufacturers and consumers to consume less.
Recycling has proven its efficiency in solving the problem of garbage disposal at landfills. By the accumulation of garbage throughout the years, space available for garbage has largely diminished. In the states for example almost 67% of their waste stream ends up in landfills. This has in fact increased the price of disposal. It can cost up to $158 to pick a ton of garbage and dispose it. Besides, these landfills pollute their surroundings area with lots of hazardous materials and contaminate underground water. To discover the contamination of the underground water it would be 12 years after the poisons-benzene; formaldehyde; mercury; and BCEE- have actually contaminated the land, and had sunk 24 feet into the ground contaminating about 50 million gallons of underground water. Besides, these lands could be used in more useful ways such as building schools, hospitals, or simply turning them into large green areas to purify the air. This problem is practically acute in Egypt, since we do find, even in central areas of the city, piles of garbage disposed very near to residential areas. Recycling would therefore eliminate this problem and protect the environment.
If we consider burning as an alternative, well it is not very advantageous, so often burning is done in incinerators. Incineration is the process of disposing of the “combustible portion of the community wastes. This burning pollutes the air in the area around it. It is not the way to solve the problem of recycling because it solves one problem by creating another, which is air pollution. In this process a number of pollutants are emitted which poisons the air. Carbon dioxide and lead are byproducts of burning that most health organizations consider highly toxicating. These byproducts affect children mentally and physically. In addition, carbon dioxide is considered one of the main reasons of global warming because the molecule itself captures heat an stores it in it thus creating the green house effect. Plastics are rather toxicating when burnt, Acrylic type plastics emit HCN gas, Bromine components that are added to plastics results in the emission of HBr, which are all dangerous pollutants. Obviously burning cannot be considered an alternative and as stated in Consumer Reports, “Recycling does help to keep garbage out of landfills and incinerators, both of which pose environmental problems.” Although burning lessens the physical amount of the waste materials, it is considered one of the easiest ways to pollute the air.
Though these are great advantages to the environment and us, recycling costs more than you could imagine. A study found that when the cost of garbage is calculated by volume, land filling and recycling costs are roughly the same. Recycling does not appear to save any money, this applies to most of the European countries and the United States and studies have lately proven so. Recycling is a good thing, but it costs vast amounts of money. This view has been confirmed by John E. Jacobson, who is the president of AUS, a consulting firm in Philadelphia who stated that it is often more expensive to recycle than to manufacture from raw material. The process goes through lots of phases. First; is the collecting and sorting of garbage. Second; is manufacturing and marketing. Collection should be a phase by itself. In developed countries such as the States, Europe, and the Far East, the people have a great deal of awareness of the situation. People know that recycling is important and would save us lots and lots of things. The countries themselves should provide facilities to help the people recycle, such as machines that recycle cans on the spot and gives 2.5 cents/can and recyclable-collecting programs and others. These collecting programs are costly and they do not work in apartment buildings. Vehicles that transport these materials are not cheap either, and bulky objects waste most of these trucks capacities, especially when trash contains a lot of plastic containers. More truck rounds are required to collect recyclable. This adds to the cost. “We took plastics out of recycling programs because we could not afford to drive around with trucks with 45% of their collection capacity taken up by air.”(Consumer Reports)
As for the sorting process it entails lots of manpower and tools, both of which are very expensive. The material cannot simply be all fed into one big machine and then “boom” we have recycled material. No, every kind of material must be put alone then fed into big recycling machines. This process of separation or sorting costs money. Manufacturers have to hire laborers to sort out glass from aluminum from cardboard from tin and so on. According to Consumer Reports, the sorting equipment and the manpower involved in the process are a big investment. It is important to know that this process of collecting and sorting is particularly expensive in developed countries where sophisticated tools are used where manpower is rather limited and expensive. However, in developing countries like Egypt, the process of collecting and sorting are rather primitive and is carried out by the “Zabaleen ” or a second-hand car. This makes it less expensive than in developed countries.
Manufacturing and marketing is the second phase in this process. In order to build the factories that do the recycling operation, the most important thing we must have is the capital. Building these factories is quite expensive plus it takes time because the latest technology must be applied there. According to Consumer Reports, when garbage is sorted it is sent to factories to be put in industry. These factories, usually designed for producing from raw material, need “retooling” so as to use recycled material; which is very expensive. For example Union Carbide Inc., one of the nations major supplies of plastic, had to spend 10 million dollars on building a factory that would recycle plastic bottles it had produced. Therefore to retool a factory to make it compatible with the demands of recycling means machines in an old factory must be replaced with new ones and this is costly. For some reason all the machinery in a recycling firm tend to ware out so fast, it is due to the interaction of these materials. So what has to be done now is buy new machines for these firms ever time they ware out and that s not cheap!
Another disadvantage of recycling which makes it unattractive for manufacturers is that economically, the recycled material is not highly demanded, it is not that pure as the virgin material. In a grocery stores most of the food is kept in cardboard containers or boxes that are made out of recycled multi-material. While books and furniture that are made out of artificial wood and paper do not prefer the usage of recycled material. This is a very good reason to look for an alternative because recycled material cannot be used in projects that are worthwhile, such as books and furniture. In many cases, manufacturers would be forced to switch from multi-material packages, which are difficult to recycle, to homogeneous, single-layered packaging.
If marketing of recycled products is not economically worthwhile, then the whole process of recycling cannot be economically efficient. Manufacturers cannot be motivated to recycle if their recycled products are not demanded. “We have got to be realistic about some things, said Jerry Allison (of Consumer Reports), “we set goals with certain economies in mind, we no longer have those economies, so we have got to revisit these goals.” What led most of the economists to look for a substitute for recycling is the inconsistent quality of the products. The products of recycling are not as good as the original ones, thus leading consumers to look for a substitute. This inconsistency is due to improper sorting of material. People are expected to have a separate container for each thing that is recycled. When people mess around and misplace things this is due to either untrained employee, who do not differentiate between the recyclable, or careless dumping. Careless dumping could be a result of unconcern of the people. A major portion the recycled products are contaminated as well. Different kinds of paper or differently used aluminum cans when mixed together to be recycled do not produce the quality product that was made from raw materials.
Most of the recycling organizations are non-profit organizations. Still, it is expensive to use recycled material because the recycled material costs much. The government must have a role in all this; its role is to overcome such problems. The government must finance these programs, but not in a way that the taxpayers have to suffer. Also some materials are better dumped than recycled, the government should look for the material that would cost the least to recycle and use it in most things. Such researches should be conducted and financed by the government. The packaging industry consumes a lot of paper and plastic, if this industry would consider using recycled material and less packaging they would save a lot of energy, time and resources. Manufacturers of poly-coated paper packages claim that recycling their products is both a boon to source reduction efforts and an energy-efficient process. That is what we all want, a program that is cost efficient and saves energy. Also the taxpayers should pay according to the amount of recyclable each household recycles. It should not be the same amount paid for each household because some people recycle less than others therefore they should pay less. This way the government will create the suitable conditions to encourage recycling programs and maybe help preserving the environment. This rapid leap in our lives will lead us to improve recycling and hopefully it will lead us to look for a way to better plan it. Better planning for recycling will help prevent the problems faced now by recycling. If it could be made to satisfy the needs and conditions previously mentioned, to be cost-efficient, not time consuming, and a better quality of products, this would be like a dream come true. Recycling should be cost-efficient because what all nations are facing are massive economical problems. Financing these programs is one hell of a job and if it has to be done anyway, then we should at least look for ways to make it cost efficient. People should learn to use and reuse, rather than use and dispose. If we can use things more than once and could save energy then why not do so. Reuse means getting more use out of a product to reduce the waste stream. As we can see the benefits are over-estimated, and the costs are under-estimated. What we should do is not only look for an alternative but also look for other ways to improve recycling. The natural resources will not last forever, eventually everything comes to an end and the end is very near to our natural resources. What is of greater importance is to find alternatives to such resources if they actually become extinct. Recycling is backed by most of the general public, for its ideas of saving the environment, energy, and conserving raw materials. Recycling does not necessarily provide for safer or more environmentally sound disposal than land filling or incinerators, but it will decrease and maybe solve the problem of the ever-increasing pollution.
Recycling is costing the US and the world billions of dollars a year. This money could be better spent in others areas or on other projects. Recycling does
solve a major part of the pollution problem, but there are other programs that can help solve it too. Recycling creates almost as many problems as it solves. Overall, I believe there are other alternatives to recycling and that we would be better off developing these alternatives for the future of our planet.