It looks like your crazy retired hippie neighbor who rummages through your waste bin every day will soon be out of business. No longer will he be able to sell several bags of Coca-Cola cans for top penny because the aluminum recyclables market is shrinking in size and profitability. Well, at least you won’t have to watch somebody go through your trash anymore as you stand on your front porch drinking coffee.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the price of used aluminum has cratered 30% over the last 12 months because the demand has dissipated. Despite social pressures, metal producers, aluminum rollers, automobile and airplane manufacturers, and others are scrapping used cans from their business models. As a result, used soda pop cans are piling up in scrap yards.
This is part of a much broader downturn in the recycling industry, including paper and plastic, driven by Chinese tariffs and heightened standards in recyclables’ purity. For years, Beijing had been the epicenter of this market, thanks to an immense infrastructure and greater capacity to process recycled goods. There is now a crusade among developed markets to find new buyers of aluminum, paper, and plastic.
But this is evidence of one inconvenient truth for the green puritans: Recycling is a waste.
Recycling Is Garbage
The argument for recycling is not grounded in fact, science, or economics. If we had an honest discussion, it would conclude with abandoning the blue bins and tossing out our garbage instead. The true cost of this initiative exceeds its benefit since it does not return a financial profit – aluminum used to, but now we’ve learned otherwise.
The environmental practice uses three times more resources than disposing of waste in a landfill. The cost to recycle is around $150 per ton, compared to $28 to throw trash in a landfill. Curbside recycling costs 55% more than other methods, and the environmental impact is greater because there are more trucks on the road. Recycling two popular products – newspapers and glass bottles – is more harmful to the environment; newspapers need to be deinked with chemicals and states ship their glass bottles to other jurisdictions.
Ultimately, we’re using more energy to recycle than it would take to start from scratch, and all these efforts are in vain since most of the stuff in blue bins still ends up in a landfill anyway.
The predictable counterargument to this is that we’re running out of landfill space, alluding to media footage of trucks filled with garbage with nowhere to go. It is true that the number of landfills is decreasing, mainly due to NIMBYism and political pressure from supposed tree huggers, but the size of existing and proposed landfills is increasing.
Today, there are approximately 2,000 landfills in 48 states that manage more than half of all solid waste in the nation, and about a third are privately owned. Landfills are marketed as hazardous wastelands that pose threats to the environment and dangers to public health. This isn’t remotely true because developers have transformed your grandfather’s landfills into state-of-the-art facilities, comprising plastic liners, redundant clay, and collection systems. Moreover, modern-day landfills are turning into energy hubs as they produce pipeline-quality natural gas and methane gas.
Overall, it is estimated that holding all the country’s garbage for the next 100-plus years would require a landfill of 10 miles in length and 255 feet in height.
Power of Prices
One of the recycling elite’s chief arguments is the scarcity of natural resources. However, a lot of conventional wisdom on what is scarce is arbitrary. The best way to determine if a natural resource is threatened is by using the pricing system.
If the price of a resource is gradually increasing (without inflation), then the natural source is becoming scarcer. On the other hand, if the price is plunging, there is an abundance of this good. What have we learned over the last century? The average price of raw materials has tumbled 75%.
The same economic reasoning can be applied to landfills. If what they say is true, and we are running short of landfill space, then the cost of dumping our trash would skyrocket. But it hasn’t. Do you know what has? Recycling, which is why more municipalities are dumping their programs or raising fees.
Going Through the Motions
In Aldous Huxley’s seminal Brave New World, children are brainwashed by the government from the time they can understand speech. Using a form of hypnopaedia – learning while asleep – the powerful bureaucrats incorporate a whisper box into their plans, repeating slogans and messages pertaining to conformity and sex. This information is eventually ingrained into their minds and memories.
Similarly, millennials were indoctrinated in elementary school with bad information relating to waste and recycling, as well as the annoying jingle from public service announcements. As these millennials enter adulthood, recycling has become a religion for their households, and anyone in the neighborhood who refuses to conform is a planet-hater and worse than Adolf Hitler.
Remember, kids: Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. And close the loop! Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. And close the loop!
At this point, we’re going through the motions. It is something we have always done. Recycling allows folks to act like they’re in an episode of Care Bears: It gives us the impression we’re saving the planet, and it makes us feel superior to those who don’t recycle. It’s like Starbucks customers who think they’re better than Dunkin’ Donuts patrons.
Recycling doesn’t save resources, doesn’t help the environment, and doesn’t help us save money. It is based on a trash heap of lies.