November 29, 2006

Recycling: It’s (Almost) All BS

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:32 pm

Yep — Recycling is (almost) all BS (HT George Reisman). The link has a half-hour Showtime program on the topic by entertainers Penn and Teller, who have a Showtime series dedicated to debunking BS. (Update, Sept. 2007 — the Showtime link is gone, but the segment on the absurd lengths people would be willing to go through to separate their trash is at this YouTube link.)

The program does an excellent job of refuting the supposed economics of recycling (which makes NO economic sense except in the case of aluminum cans). It is definitely R-Rated; you’ll have to endure a lot of unnecessary F-words and other four-letter bombs. If you can tolerate that, you’ll learn a lot, including quite a few things I didn’t know (not that there’s a shortage of that), and you’ll be armed with the truth.

The one point that Penn and Teller missed is that not only is there not a shortage of landfill space, but various techniques and technologies have are enabling us to use up the available space at a slower rate than what was anticipated in the 1980s, when the bogus “landfill crisis” scaremongering reached its highest db level. One city is even experimenting with vaporizing what would otherwise go into landfills.

The comments at the site where the video is show how impenetrable some people are to the truth, even when it’s presented in plain, understandable, and undeniable terms. But recycling is part of the enviros’ religion, and people won’t let go of “accepted dogma” easily.



  1. What’s interesting is I did this as a freshman term paper in college. I started out with the hook “Paper or Plastic?” and when I dug in and checked out the entire “lifecycle” of various products, I found the substance that required the least energy and generated the least waste in its entire lifecycle was plastic (in general), compared against paper, glass, and metal (metal was the most recyclable/reusable, but its weight for the use generally made transport more costly, and the mining and original smelting of the metal tends to involve much more toxins than with other products).

    With regards to landfills, plastic is ideal because it doesn’t decompose (which is the largest danger in landfills – methane explosions).

    Of course, this was for an English class, so my term paper went nowhere (I did get an A, and also a comment about the topic being an odd choice), but it was one of the few term papers I went into not knowing what I was going to find. Needless to say, it’s one of the few term papers I remember.

    Comment by meep — November 30, 2006 @ 6:14 am

  2. Hey Tom, I don’t know how to trackback (esp. from livejournal), but I had a few further things to say here:

    Comment by meep — November 30, 2006 @ 6:31 am

  3. #2, interesting thoughts. I would like to see if the energy use per body in an urban area is greater or lesser than that or a suburban area. I can see reasons why it could go either way.

    Comment by TBlumer — November 30, 2006 @ 10:30 am

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