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A global morality: We recycle because we should …

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, 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.”

My Sunday haul. So, given Tierney's dire prediction for recycling, I'm suppose to stop what I do? I cannot go there, and won't. There is a case for an individual mandate that deems the environment a worthy global cause.

My Sunday haul. So, given Tierney’s dire prediction for recycling, I’m supposed to cease and desist what I do? I cannot go there, and won’t. There is a case for an individual mandate that deems the environment a worthy global cause.

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.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I'm the one behind two totally unrelated blogs; one on 15 years of writing a weekly letter to my kids (plus other recipients), the other on my localized environmental responsibility. I'm a writer by trade and both endeavors are accepted practice for me. As for the letters, my adult children Ellen and Reid may have seen letters as corny at one point, but it's accepted practice for them, too, to find something in their mailbox other than bills and junk mail. Email and texting don't do a lot for me for a lot of different reasons. Snail mail has its place in the communicative world so as long as they keep selling stamps, I'm buying. As for 'Pick Up Your Path' and the environment, I advocate what citizens can do themselves to take a direct hand in their neighborhood environment. But Pick Up Your Path is also a general environmental blog. It may be largely about litter and trash, but both of those are just one element of the total environmental picture.

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