News Recycling

Published on November 1st, 2012

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Why Recycling Does Not Work

Have you ever taken out the trash, and at the same time asked yourself: Why do I have to spend time putting paper with paper and glass with glass? The answer given is that by doing this you are saving the environment and preserving natural resources.

Well, this could not be further from the truth. According to Professor Bjørn Lomborg at Copenhagen Business School “recycling is often just a feel-good gesture that provides little environmental benefit at a significant cost”.

Lomborg uses the recycling of paper as an example. People are thought that by recycling we are saving trees. What they do not take into account is that the paper we use is not uncritically taken out of the rain forests. In fact, it comes from well-managed forest areas in Scandinavia, Canada, and similar countries. When the trees are cut down, the fields are replanted. We thus see an increase in trees rather than de-forestation.

By recycling one actually hurts these responsible industries, paving the way for less environmentally friendly business.

Other types of recycling are also counterproductive, especially when viewed from a social-economic perspective. These actions represent a misuse of money and manpower, which could be more useful in other sectors.

What we instead should be focusing on is the fight against poverty and promoting peace, especially in the developing world. This is not dine by spending countless hours recycling paper.

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2 Responses to Why Recycling Does Not Work

  1. Robert says:

    The sentiment in this article is my gut-reaction to most enviromental policy, at least towards recycling. Considering the prize we are willing to pay for services and things that make our lives easier, it’s odd that so many are willing clean and sort their trash before they dispose of it.

    In my local paper it was revealed that the recycling initiative in my town didn’t really live up to expecations, because a large portion of the paper and plastic that was turned in was only viable for burning. On top of that it had to be driven to sweden to be burned, as there weren’t any facilities for it locally. What really suprised me, was something said during a political debate; even if recycling didn’t have the desired effect, it would be an unhealthy signal to stop it; It would leave a bad impression with the coming generation.

    I guess part of the enviromental movement is about personal guilt, and most people feel that they have somewhat redeemed themselves as long as they sort the paper and recycle glass and metall. I won’t write all such initiatives of as meaningless, but it leaves a blind spot for the real enviromental threats in the form of industry. It’s ironic that in a country where there is such prevailance of smartphones produced in china under questionable human and enviromental conditions, that using paper produced under very sustainable circumstances is given the blame for enviromental problems.

  2. M. Clark says:

    A short, but interesting article which would have benefited from a more comprehensive discussion about recycling. And what about other examples than just paper? I don’t really get whether Lomborg thinks recycling of all products is counterproductive or whether he refers to certain products.

    I think the last part of the article quotes Lomborg, but I’m not 100% sure. It could also be interpreted as the editor’s opinions. There shouldn’t be room for confusion here, please!

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