So, should the end of recycling be at hand?
My good friend and pathway picker-upper Bob sent me a thoughtful opinion article by John Tierney in this morning’s New York Times: The Reign of Recycling. (You can also look it up at nytimes.com, search for “Tierney.”)
The essence is recycling is expensive, has dubious environmental benefits, and, as Tierney writes about us do-gooders, “… Are you in fact wasting your time?”
Tierney writes in a cold blooded yet compelling fashion. To paraphrase him, communities persist in recycling out of a sense of morality while recyclers themselves find their costs, and financial rewards, continue to lessen. In fairness, he mentions the added cost of creating products from raw materials rather than the bird-in-the-hand that re-use of materials brings to the collective table.
I understand the points but am at odds with the end premise.
I told Bob in response that we do some things because we can. I side with the notion that there is a larger morality tale at play here. “Some restaurants are overpriced but we still eat there,” I told Bob. “Some cars are expensive but we still buy them. I suppose it’s about doing the right thing.”
I believe wholly that recycling is the right thing as a matter of global perspective. Sure, on an individual level we could abandon all hope that it helps yet I’m not willing to go there. As a society we could abandon the notion of keeping pollutants out of the environmental chain. Recycling could collapse entirely if businesses turn the other cheek for purely dollars-and-cents profit motives. That is an environmental doomsday scenario.
Yet when I walk I see junk that shouldn’t be there. When I paddle my fishing kayak in Charleston, I see all manner of abominable stuff that shouldn’t be in the water or marooned on the shoreline. Are we supposed to give in to the environmental dilemma?
Tierney makes his points. But I want to make mine, too, even on my vastly smaller, more individualized scale.