The Outstater

November 15, 2022

Trash In, Trash Out

I LOVE THE IDEA of recycling. It makes such illuminating public policy.

Recycling is good. I know that because people, some of them in high office, have been telling me that for the last 20 years. Indeed, they made it mandatory. What they did not tell me was that it made no sense.

“Americans who’ve spent the last few decades recycling might think their hands are clean. Alas, they are not,” writes John Miltmore of the Foundation for Economic Education. “As the Sierra Club noted in 2019, for decades Americans’ recycling bins have held ‘a dirty secret,’”

That secret is that half the plastic and much of the paper did not go to your local recycling center but was sold to China. “There, the dirty bales of mixed paper and plastic were processed under the laxest of environmental controls,” discovered the investigative journalist Edward Hume. “Much of it was simply dumped, washing down rivers to feed the crisis of ocean plastic pollution.”

Why didn’t somebody tell us that? Two decades. Not a word.

Well, we don’t deal in motives here but we do deal in incentives. There was a lot of money to be made in mandatory recycling. Mandatory was the trick. One day you were a junk dealer, the next day you were a global empire. 

Previously, they picked up your trash and hauled it to a dump (which, it turns out, we have plenty of land to accommodate). In fact, you didn’t even have to pay; many of us did it ourselves.

Later you had to hire experts to sort, classify, wash and repurpose it each step of the way.  Bureaucracies had to be set up to manage it at every level of government — very, very expensive, and profitable. If you didn’t help there were fines and criminal penalties.

The people who got good at convincing you all of that was saving the earth are retired now living on the Gulf somewhere in beach houses. Considering the national wealth these men wasted for personal gain, they should be sought out and hung upside down from lamp poles. A lot of them would be politicians. There may not be enough lamp poles.

I love the idea of electric cars. What a wonderful world it would be if we could buzz around without emitting hateful carbon. A lot of people, some of them in high office, would make that mandatory . . .

I think you know where this is going. — tcl


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