I met B.Sc, B.B.A. Tony E. Madi, project engineer at a leading Canadian multinational geotechnical engineering firm, a couple of months ago and we got into a very interesting debate. Like many of you, I was taught to recycle as a kid and have been doing it ever since without questioning the real reasons behind it. It's what everyone else is doing and it's supposed to be good for the planet, right? Not exactly. Tony firmly believes that it's time to put an end to the old recycling myth. Turns out, if we examine the whole process of recycling, it is not as good of an idea as it is "known" to be.
Recycling is the most multi gender, class and race movement in the world. Did you know that more people recycle than vote? Well, now you do. Most people feel like they are contributing to the community and environment by sorting out their trash. The truth is, everything we're taught to believe that is good for the planet is actually one big scam. According to the New York Times, "recycling may be one of the most wasteful activity in modern America, a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources."
Out of all of the materials that Montrealers are currently recycling, the only one that presents real value is metal, such as aluminium and steel. Here's how Tony E. Madi breaks down the recyclable materials:
It is the biggest waste of energy among all recyclable goods. Transport, sorting, storing and cleaning have an enormous cost in green house gases as well as in hefty taxpayer's bill. A controlled landfill in this case may be the best option, even if it takes 450 years for a bottle to decompose.
Paper is tricky, most of us believe that we're saving the world's forests by recycling it. In respect to transport, sorting, storing and cleaning, paper recycling is one of the priciest on the list. In addition, the quality of the after-product of recycled paper is extremely poor. The good news is that, in 2015, we have tree farms, where trees are being grown for the mere purpose of cutting them off and making paper.
Glass is the heaviest part of any city's waste. It also demands the most amount of energy to be recycled. As a result, a bunch of glass ends up in a landfill waiting for a buyer. In other words, overall, there isn't much use for the glass we throw in trash cans.
Metals are the only materials that retain their value after being recycled, so private companies can actually make money off them.
There is potential for glass, paper and plastic to gain value sometime in the future as the resources used to make them become more scarce.
You might ask yourself, why are recycling programs so popular then, if they are not actually helping the environment? The answer is simple. They are being pursued by politicians and bureaucrats so that their recycling targets can be met. Who sets these recycling targets? Politicians and bureaucrats. It's a vicious cycle of failed attempts at saving the planet that, ultimately, makes taxpayers suffer the most. Our money goes to things that do more damage than good.