July 15, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

From the Mailbag: Does Your Recycling Programs Actually Recycle?

recycling programs


Skepticism about the virtues of recycling have been growing for more than a decade. For example in Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001, Oxford University Press), we learn that “the entire U.S. twenty-first-century waste can be contained within a single landfill in part of Woodward County, Oklahoma,” and recycling programs around the country have consistently proven to lose large amounts of public money.

We don’t take a position on recycling, other than to say this: Any time you task government with administering a large and expensive program affecting hundreds of thousands or millions of people, you’re going to get a fair level of waste and irrational policymaking.

All this came to mind last week when we received this email, from Steven in Greenville.

A few years ago I was cleaning my garage, and had a load of junk to take to the landfill. It happened to be on the same day the recycling truck was coming by the house. Back then, we used to dutifully separate the papers products from the glass from the plastics, etc., etc. My wife and I were very vigilant about it.

So as I was headed to the landfill, the recycling truck came, and I just decided to follow it. More than anything, I was curious about where it went. As I headed into the dumping area, there was the county recycling truck ahead of me. I got weighed, and as I headed back to my truck, I see the recycling truck dumping all its waste right into the landfill. And when I walked over to where it dumped the stuff – in part my stuff – I saw mounds and mounds of recyclable things. Plastic bottles, glass products, on and on.

Note to self: Stop wasting time and energy sorting the trush and just throw it away. It’s heading to the same dump anyway.

Have you had similar run-ins with expensive government programs? Send us an email at news@thenerve.org.

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The Nerve