An Examination of Recycling as Cost-Effective

Many people say recycling will save the world; but economically speaking, some argue that it's doing more harm than good. These critics say it also uses more energy than it takes to make products directly from natural resources. In the United States, many communities have programs in which schools, families and businesses participate in recycling. Throughout this essay, one will understand the different view points on whether recycling is really cost-effective.

In the late1980's, multiple communities began to voluntary recycle trash in belief that it could produce significant energy savings and environmental benefits. Recycling wastes seems to symbolize sustainability. Anyone could recycle, it can be done by a person who lives in a small town, or by a massive factory. But why are so many people choosing to participate? "Recycling fulfills two components of sustainability. First, people conserve natural resources by recycling items that industries use as raw materials. This decreases the demand that industry outs on the environment by extracting new natural resources from the Earth. Second, recycling lessens the amount of wastes that accumulate on Earth. The simple action of putting wastes into different recycling bins also helps remind people of the amounts of waste they produce and might help them think of ways to reduce it" (Maczulak). The most common recycled products are paper, plastics, glass, steel, and aluminum. One-half of an average household's trash can be recycled. Therefor, Each garbage bag can be reduced, meaning less garbage to dump into landfills.

Recycling has picked up over the years because people see that Earth isn't made of infinite materials. Almost every material we use is finite. There are many different ways someone could recycle. Also, recycling is pretty much free! To recycle, all a person needs to do is not throw away their bottles, paper, etc. instead put it in a different bin. Now public places have  recycling bins connected to garbage bins, so there's no struggle to search for a recycling bin, all one has to do it put it in the left side to recycle rather than the right. Although it's free for the people, recycling doesn't come free for the government and companies running these operations. "It costs millions to pickup, sort and process all those plastic bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard pizza boxes we discard" (Conger).

Another reason recycling has picked up is because in 1987, the infamous garbage truck, Mobro 4000, spent months traveling the eastern seaboard looking for a place to dumb its 3000-ton load of New York trash. It was refused by every port. "It had become the poster child for what trumpeted as a national crisis: dwindling landfill space" (Hutchinson). Recycling critic's commonly say, the next 1,000 years-worth of trash would only fill a 35-square mile landfill that is 100 yards deep. Who would want to live near that? That's not exactly a good counter argument. "Advocates of recycling say these arguments miss the point. Yes, recycling can be costly for some cities, especially if it isn't done properly and efficiently. But we don't recycle to save money, they say, we do it to save the planet." (Sealey). Recycling will decrease the size of landfills. "Recycling has clearly taken on a third purpose in the past several decades: waste management. The volume of waste that the world's population produces is an environmental problem that recoiling helps to reduce" (Maczulak).

Recycling saves energy, and money if there is customer for the recycled product. "High demand for a recycled material allows the recycler or manufacturer to take advantage of economies of scale. Consumers thus keep the entire recycling loop going in an efficient manner" (Maczulak). It has been a roller coaster so far to acquire the recycled materials for a cost. "Recycled tin took a particularly deep plunge from $327 per ton to $5 per ton." (Conger). These prices are constantly varying. "The Government can actually make money from recycling programs by selling off recyclable materials for reuse. Today, the residential mix of recyclable materials a homeowner would put out on the curb is worth about $125 per ton. If that price outweighs the collecting, sorting and marketing costs, the recycling program can pay for itself" (Conger). The problem is that recycling is location-dependent, nothing will ensure each curbside program. "The National Recycling Coalition recently showed that 1.1 million Americans work in the recycling industry, comprising an annual payroll of $37 billion" (eLibrary). Also, the cost of plastic, glass and metal to recycle is $240 per ton in New York, that's almost double what it cost rather than to just throw it away. 

Recycling has awhile until it's 100% cost-effective. But as of right now, people aren't worrying about the cost of recycling. They are recycling it to make a better future for our generations to come. And the money put into recycling is worth it because the Earth has scarce resources. All of our scarce resources are in landfills, just sitting there for decades. Also, landfills are running out of space. People, governments and companies have to sacrifice some money to make the world a better place. In the future, recycling might be the most profitable idea, who knows. Experts are still looking for the right way to make recycling more efficient. But, recycling is a necessity on this planet. From a sustainability point of view, recycling has value and is cost-effective. But from a economist point of view, it's not worth it. The debate will go on until recycling produces profit. There are two different kinds of people in this world, the one's who only care about making money and the ones who have true morals and see the need for a program like recycling.