Save the World -- Stop Recycling

My wife and I had our familiar recycling argument this weekend (Wife:  You need to put that stuff in the recycling;  Me:  Recycling makes zero sense for anything except scrap steel and aluminum, all the rest is just a liturgy of belief we perform for the church of the environment, where labor costs are assumed to be zero).

Anyway, thinking about it more, I have had a revelation.  If we define our biggest environmental problem as CO2 production,shouldn't we stop recycling of plastic and paper?  In the first case, we are burying hydrocarbons unburned, putting the carbon back underground.  Each bottle not recycled represent a few more hydrocarbon molecules that must be dedicated to plastics rather than fuel.  In the case of paper, if we don't recycle then we are using trees to sequester CO2 and bury it back in the ground as paper and cardboard.  Once trees hit their maturity, their growth slows and therefore the rate they sequester CO2 slows.  At this point, we need to be cutting more down, not less, and burying them in the ground, either as logs or paper or whatever.  Just growing forests is not enough, because old trees fall over and rot and give up their carbon as CO2.  We have to bury them.   Right?

Yeah, I know it's silly, but is it any more silly than this:

In the last few months, bottled water "” generally
considered a benign, even beneficial, product "” has been increasingly
portrayed as an environmental villain by city leaders, activist groups
and the media. The argument centers not on water, but oil. It takes 1.5
million barrels a year just to make the plastic water bottles Americans
use, according to the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, plus
countless barrels to transport it from as far as Fiji and refrigerate
it. ...

Dave Byers, 65, from Silver Spring,
Md., discussed the issue with his wife, Pat, on the steps of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art on a 90-degree Saturday. "I think it should
be banned, actually," he said of bottled water.

If you care about the environment, I say buy more bottled water, and throw the bottle away.  You too can sequester some carbon.


  1. John ewey:

    Is it silly to give tree farmers an incentive to replant trees? Increasing demand for paper will increase the demand for pulpwood, which will induce tree farmers to plant seedlings. Recycling paper - or going paperless - does not save those carbon gobbling trees. It does exactly the opposite.

  2. Rick:

    funny stuff - recycling is so big now and everybody thinks they're saving the environment.

  3. bob:

    So kill an environmentalist and then bury them. Or preferable, a dozen or more :)

  4. Brian:

    My wife and I had our familiar recycling argument this weekend

    My city garbage collectors trump that argument. If a bag with recyclables is tossed in with the regular garbage, it gets left behind. If they find recyclables in the regular garbage the entire can is left behind.

  5. Rick:

    So Brian, you PAY the garbage monkeys to come and pick up your refuse, yet when YOU don't sort it out as they demand, they refuse to do their job.
    Fantastic. I own a supplement/smoothie store, I wonder if that would work in my business...

    "What? You want strawberries AND bananas in your smoothie? No way, that combination is too acidic in our opinion, and no, you can't have a refund -- you pre-pay for the smoothie whether we make it for you or not. Have a nice day"

    Sounds like a plan.

    I distrust anything done for "the common good"

  6. JSinAZ:

    I moved to Mesa AZ twenty years ago; some years later they reduced the number of regular trash collections to one per week, and thoughtfully provided a blue barrel for your sorted trash.

    It only took a few disgusting encounters with our single black trash barrel and its contents, stewing after a week at +110 plus, for my wife and I to decide to eat the cost of renting an extra black barrel for garbage pickup.

    And we still gripe loudly about it, since those stinking barrels still have to sit there in the sun for a week at a time in the gawdawful heat all because some administrative drone got the fatuous idea that recycling adequately replaces garbage pickup! Morons!

    Whew. Thanks for letting me vent.

  7. DWPittelli:

    I've worked more than a few evenings on deadline. And in more than one office building I've been in, I've seen the cleaning crew emptying all of the "recycling" bins into the same barrels they put the garbage into. Surely their bosses must have noticed that no recycling is coming out of the system. The "recycling" bins are merely a totem and their use by us a ritual in the feel-good religion of the 21st Century.

  8. Daublin:

    Yes, if CO2 is a looming catastrophe, then you should be all for sequestration of oil-based products. Curiously, I have not heard a single person both claim that CO2 is a catastrophe, but also ask us to do our part and buy up all the oil of the world so that it runs out.

    To explain this situation, your church-based view seems accurate to me. Environmentalism is a religion that is little connected to actually helping the environment.

    This situation is a pity, because the environment is actually important. The worst threat to the environment might well be all the crazy environmentalists guilting us into doing the wrong thing.

  9. Josh:

    I have argued often to not recycle paper to the 'Church of the Environment' members. It is a great concept, and if nothing else makes a good and interesting argument.

    The last person I was seeing was a member of the C of the E, and we went rounds when I told her I didn't recycle paper, and why. (Not seeing her any more.) Same with other CE members here at work.

    There seems to be a contradiction in the morals that tell them to both save trees by recycling, and also to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Oh, interesting rumor going around - That money is made from Old Growth forests, and hence, evil. No clue where this came from, but it is made of 25% Linen and 75% cotton. It was an interesting argument, when I brought up that there wasn't wood in money, and that old growth forests don't get turned into paper (for the most part) and that wood is a crop. I am surprised at how much more a non-environmentalist knows about the environment then those who are part of the movement. Or, maybe it isn't.



  10. diz:

    As an aside, it's a bit problematic to say you save "barrels of oil" by not using plastics.

    The main feedstocks for plastics are natural gas liquids and "LPGs" (liquefied petroleum gases).

    LPGs come from oil but are more-or-less a by-product of the petroleum refining process, which is geared to maximize gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

    If people demand the same amount of beef, you're not going to save a lot of cows by refusing to buy leather.

    And as long as people demand transportation fuels, oil barrels will need to be refined -- plastic demand or not. The LPGs will still be produced and put to their next most valuable use.

  11. Luis:

    If the economics don't work, recycling efforts won't either.
    As our little contribution to make this economics of recycling more appealing, blogs about people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.

  12. Bri:

    Do you know how much carbon it makes to get brand-new materials instead of re-using the old ones?? You have to mine the rock, refine, import, process, make the can, distribute, and throw it away in a landfill. Not to mention burning fossil fuels by ship, truck and train to get it to all the differnt places places. Its a waste.

  13. Paul:

    So you're saying it has less environmental impact to put in place a whole new system to create products from recycled material than it does to increase the production of the same products through the channels already in place? The very real impact recycling has in our neighborhoods is the fact that a 2nd (and for me a 3rd) diesel garbage collection truck has to drive around my block and spew exhaust where I breathe. Your system not only creates more pollution and environmental impact, but also puts that pollution in your face every day. Thanks.

  14. Louie Donovan:

    Hello, just my opinion, it will leave more carbon footprint whenever we produce new products than recycling such as done by appliance refrigerant recovery ks. Less material is needed to recycle than to produce new ones.