Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.

Recycling, science and social responsibility

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Credit: Jay Lopez

Credit: Jay Lopez

Today is Thursday, which is recycling day in our neighborhood. Once a week we place an approved recycling container filled with discarded paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal by the garage. A white garbage truck labeled “recycling only” comes by to collect it, usually before the regular garbage truck arrives. We feel good about saving these recyclables from the landfill.

If you recycle household materials, do you recycle because

  • you feel a social responsibility,
  • you want to be kind to the environment,
  • it makes sense from a scientific perspective,
  • it makes good economic sense, or
  • for other reasons?

In his October 3 opinion piece in The New York Times, John Tierney discusses The Reign of Recycling. He says that children are “greenwashed” and told that recycling is a virtue:

Recycling has been relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college. As a result, otherwise well-informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.

Tierney says that we should look at the overall costs and benefits of recycling, before blindly accepting that recycling is the right thing to do.

  • in general, it is more expensive to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill.
  • It makes sense to recycle certain materials, but not others.
  • recycling operations have their own environmental costs.
  • the environmental benefits of recycling come chiefly from reducing the need to manufacture new products.
  • there is plenty of land available for landfills.

Check out the full article for an interesting read. I am interested in what you think after you read it!

Author: Jill Barson Gilbert

Founder, President & CEO of Lexicon Systems, LLC, an independent management consulting firm in Houston, TX. Thought leader on environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability software. Trusted advisor on strategic planning and strategic marketing issues.

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