An emailer asks whether it makes sense. I’ve read lots of stuff saying, essentially, no. But the economics and technology may have changed since the last time I went to school on this. So perhaps Iain Murray or Jon Adler would have the most up-to-date 411 on the issue:
Jonah, you are the man who would have this at his fingertips: I once read/ heard/ hoped to believe that recycling is environmentally destructive. To wit: it takes more energy to re-collect, re-organize; re-pulp, melt, whatever, a beer can, newspaper, etc., than it takes to generate it from raw materials. The idea being that it’s way more efficient to gather several tons of aluminum ore at one point and process then distribute versus reversing the distribution. And we aren’t running out of raw materials, nor are we raping the landscape (much) to get them. But recycling requires burning huge additional amounts of fossil fuels (in unregulated dirty old diesels!) and thus is worse for the environment than just throwing crap away.
Thus, recycling is ultimately just a liberal guilt trip, and like all the others, makes the world worse than the alternative. It is on this basis that I do not recycle.
I’d love to know if I’m right the next time I go off on a rant about it to someone. In the end I probably still won’t recycle. But I might rant less if I know I’m wrong!