GRN Recycle Talk FAQ

Date: Tue Mar 30 1999 - 09:14:05 EST

Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 09:14:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Recycling Please Read (Megan McNinch)

March 30, 1999

Dear Megan McNinch,

I will fill out your implied form:

I am Fred Friedman. By profession I am a historian, a researcher, a librarian, and a writer. I have been running the Research Library for RCRA at the US Environmental Protection Agency's Region1 office in Boston for 9 years, answering questions about waste management among many other things that I do.
Recycling is good for the environment because it conserves resources, creates a waste management system that puts value back into the economy and protection into the management of waste, for one reason only.
Will it increase or decrease in 10 years? Increase if current trends persist and current goals continue in the US and in all EU countries in terms of formal, non-opportunistic commitments.
What are some of its problems: markets for all that can be recycled need to be continually built. Convincing large consumers of products to buy recycled will help to drive that market. But that means getting institutions, major corporations, and small businesses to buy recycled, not just the consumer.
Another problem: the artificially high prices of some recycled products. The solution: very complex. Involves creating more competition in recycling manufacturing among firms that don't also have a big stake in maintaining higher prices for virgin-based products, and for eliminating tax and other subsidies to e.g. the timber industry, the mining industries, farmers, and others.
Another problem: the mythology of recycling. Recycling is not a cure-all for environmental problems, though it has impacts on many besides wise use of resources, such as global warming or air pollution. Lose the idea that the best thing that a child or a single adult can do for the environment is recycle. Probably the best thing that you can do for the environment is give up travelling in automobiles.

- Research Library for RCRA

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