Recycling programs seen as a waste in many communities because of high costs, inefficiencies

FoxNews - Recycling programs may not be as efficient as many Americans have been led to believe.

Recyclable materials from the U.S. once went to China to be refashioned into clothing, bags, or other products. But since 2017, China has restricted more of what comes in, leading operation costs in the U.S. to go up. Consequently, some municipalities are sending recyclables directly to landfills rather than raising taxes on its citizens, according to new findings.

In addition, waste-management firms say there is no longer a market for recyclables, according to the Atlantic. So towns and cities often have to choose between paying more to get rid of recycling, or throwing it away.

Even so, Americans continue to pay lip service to the virtues of recycling.

Journalist John Tierney pointed out in a 2015 op-ed for the New York Times that the goal of recycling has been “relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college.”

Tierney foresaw the limitations even early as 1996. In a piece he wrote that year for the New York Times Magazine, he derided recycling as “the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.”

As Reason’s Eric Boehm pointed out this week, a typical municipal recycling program may be doing more harm to the environment than good. A basic operation, he wrote, consists of a few people riding around in a large truck – which itself takes maintenance and emits more greenhouse gasses – to collect plastic, aluminum, and paper waste that is then sorted out and sent off to another location for recycling – a process that emits even more greenhouse gasses.

Of the all plastic generated in the U.S. in 2014, only 9.5 percent was recycled, 15 percent incinerated, and 75.5 percent went to landfills, Reason magazine reported, citing data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To be sure, recycling is not without its merits, but as Boehm argued it should be approached with a cost-benefit analysis devoid of the “social signaling of environmentalism” that induces comfort from simply putting an aluminum can in a blue bin.

In another sign that the tide may be turning on the commitment to recycling, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a staunch advocate of the proposed Green New Deal, admitted Thursday that she threw away some of her plastic bags "because the recycling program in the area is tough."

But she qualified: "All of these are not reasons to stop fighting, all of these are reasons to keep fighting."

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