The Department of Environmental Quality has issued a report of recycling rates around Virginia (PDF) for 2004, finding that the state’s 29.8% trash recycling rate is above the mandated 25% minimum, but Central Virginia’s rate is way behind. Orange recycles just 3.5% of theirs, and Nelson 7%. Charlottesville is at 25.3%, just over the minimum but below the average, and Albemarle is at 28.9%. Shouldn’t this liberal oasis be at, like, 50%? Though the trend is for rural areas to do more badly than urban areas, Buckingham is up at 25.3%. Maybe they should share their secret.
Jessica Kitchin has the story in today’s Daily Progress.
7 thoughts on “Central VA Not Recycling”
Sure we recycle: we throw it from back of pickup trucks on the side of the road and in the woods. Nature takes care of everything, don’t you know?
Recycling is bad for the environment anyway. Way more harm is done in the form of fossil fuels being burned to gather up all the recyclables and process them that utility is derived from having done so. If you want to be a good steward of the environment, then simply use less.
Perhaps a more accurate way to put that would be to say that reduction is more efficient than reuse, reuse is more efficient than recycling and recycling is more efficient than simple disposal.
I’m not so sure that recycling is more efficient than simple disposal. Some items, such as aluminum cans, cry out for recycling. But glass bottles and newspaper? We’re not running out of either sand or pulpwood trees, and I’d be curious to know if it actually is more efficient to collect and process these items than it is to simply manufacture new ones.
Certainly not all recyclables are equal.
Glass and newspaper are actually pretty great for recycling, glass because there’s no loss in quality (you can melt it down and reform it a bajillion times) and newspaper because it doesn’t need to be particularly high quality, and can be easily recycled a few times before the fibers get too short to be useful.
The problem with recycling is that it doesn’t fit our economic structure. We’re slowly fixing this, thankfully. For example, the cost of dumping hazardous chemicals, pre-Superfund, was nil. Just dig a hole and bury the barrel. But the clean-up costs, to say nothing of the health costs for the community, are enormous. Those costs are no longer borne by society, thanks to modernization of laws. The same is not true for logging. If our national parks basically give away logging rights that makes the cost of some types of timber artificially low. So there’s no incentive for paper manufacturers to encourage recycling.
A similar example is fuel. We keep the price artificially low by not building in the real costs of oil, from nation-building to wars, environmental devastation to clean-up of abandoned station tanks. So there’s little incentive for consumers to limit their consumption and, in turn, for auto makers to create more efficient vehicles.
There are few examples of materials that are genuinely cheaper to entirely dispose of and remanufacture. But, again, under our economic structure, these true costs are unfairly borne by all taxpayers, rather than users of the materials.
You put a rat in a paper bag, you think the bag may not be a good “trade-off”. You either put your brains to work and recycle / reuse effectively, or you just trash everything as even thinking about is too complicated for most. No one really gives a damn because it won’t affect them personally. That’s why we can’t figure out what to do with the rat.
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