Category Archives: Recycling

What the Turks Can Teach Us about Recycling

open quoteAfter battling the teacher’s union in Wisconsin, that state’s governor, Scott Walker, proposed a state budget that would have eliminated mandatory recycling. The outrage came fast and furious. An editorial at began with

Recycling has developed into a service too valuable to toss on the scrap heap.

Some officials worry Wisconsin communities will revert to a sort of Wild West dumping ground if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget passes as is. Under the plan, subsidies for local recycling programs would end and municipalities would no longer be required to run those programs.

The editorial went on to say recycling is cleaner than garbage, trims energy use, creates jobs, and keeps tons of waste from ending up in landfills.

The governor quickly folded his plan when he failed to get the backing of key Republican lawmakers, who said his plan goes too far. So Wisconsin residents can look forward to sorting and separating their paper, plastic, and cans under the thumb of Wisconsin authorities. It’s now radical to believe that people should just throw unwanted items away. To allow people to do this is “going too far.”

Forcing people to spend time separating garbage turns the division of labor on its head. . . . Plus, the government mandate gives no consideration to which materials have value in the scrap market.

So while in certain cities of the United States, people are forced to sort through their own garbage, in a number of places in the world, residents throw away their trash with no worries. The trash will be sorted and removed by the estimated 15 million waste pickers in the world.

Spend any time in Istanbul and you see (mostly) men pulling what look to be large canvas bags strapped to steel frames on two wheels. They are everywhere — residential and commercial areas. . . .

Waste pickers collect materials for hours and then take them to depots where junk dealers buy and sell the thrown-away goods. Emir Altıngöller deals in recyclables by the kilogram, buying for 40 kuruş and selling for 60 kuruş. On the worst of days he makes 10 lira, while on the best of days it’s ten times that. “He is thankful and content with his lot because he says he appreciates being self-employed,” writes Fatma Turan for Today’s Zaman.

Americans who are forced to recycle receive nothing for separating their glass and plastic and must pay a monthly fee to hand over their recyclables free of charge in the proper bins, on the appointed days, to employees making union wages and working for the local monopoly-protected waste companies.close quote (Read more)

Penn & Teller on Recycling

I thought part 3 was best, so I’m putting it up front:

I concur with their conclusion: It’s not about saving resources or saving money, it’s about control. Some people want to tell other people how to run their lives, to pray to the garbage gods.

part 1:

part 2:

The Soda Pop Shop

I love this video for a variety of reasons. It’s the story of a man who loves what he does which itself is an inspiration for us all.

If you watch the whole thing (and I hope you do), you’ll hear about how government grants protection to giants like Pepsi-co by placing restrictions on businesses like the Soda Pop Shop. He would have been charged with “restraint of trade” if he began reusing bottles. He explains how recycling laws were a

Some highlights:
5:30 — The case against Corn Syrup. He doesn’t say it, but the reason everybody uses corn syrup is because of government tariffs on imported sugar. This comes form pressure both from the American sugar industries who want protection, and corn industries who want more reasons to grow corn.

7:40 — “Big business loves big government.” His disdain is evident even his voice.

9:40 — On recycling laws. [They] were written so that coke and pesi didn’t have to wash bottles and could transfer costs to consumers. Their hypocrisy is evident in the story about how he’d be charged with “restraint of trade” if he ever reused bottles.

Sweden’s Recycling Fiasco

“As a Swede I get to hear a lot of the myths of how wonderful a country Sweden supposedly is – the ‘prosperous socialism‘ it stands for, a role model for the rest of the world. For instance, quite a few friends from around the world have commended me on Swedish recycling polices and the Swedish government’s take on coercive environmentalism.

. . . .

So what do you do with your waste? Most homes have a number of trash bins for different kinds of trash: batteries in one; biodegradables in one; wood in one; colored glass in one, other glass in another; aluminum in one, other metals in another; newspapers in one, hard paper in another, and paper that doesn’t fit these two categories in a third; and plastic of all sorts in another collection of bins. The materials generally have to be cleaned before thrown away – milk cartons with milk in them cannot be recycled just as metal cans cannot have too much of the paper labels left.

The people of Sweden are thus forced to clean their trash before carefully separating different kinds of materials. This is the future, they say, and it is supposedly good for the environment.

. . . .

Their first measure was to redesign all containers so that it is more difficult throwing the ‘wrong’ trash in them. For instance, containers for glass have only small, round holes where you put your bottles, and containers for hard paper and carton materials have only letter-slit shaped holes (you need to flatten all boxes before recycling – that’s the law).

Well, that didn’t do the trick. People kept on cheating. And the more difficult the authorities made it to cheat, the more difficult it was to get rid of the trash even if you intended to put it in the right place. So people went to these centers and simply put everything next to the containers instead – why bother? The authorities responded by appointing salaried ‘trash collection center spies’ (!) to document who was cheating so that they could be brought to justice. (There have actually been a few court cases where people have been tried for not following recycling laws.)

. . . .

The structure works the way all centrally planned structures work: it increases and centralizes power while the attempted (expected) results do not materialize. In this case, the structure works: people do sort their trash in different bins – they have no choice. Also, government garbage collection companies do not have to do as much work while getting paid more than ever before.

. . . .

What is interesting about this Soviet-style planned recycling is that it is officially profitable. It is supposed to be resource efficient, since recycling of the materials is less energy-consuming than, for instance, mining or the production of paper from wood. It is also economically profitable, since the government actually generates revenues from selling recycled materials and products made in the recycling process. The final recycling process costs less than is earned from selling the recycled products.

However, this is common government logic: it is “energy saving” simply because government does not count the time and energy used by nine million people cleaning and sorting their trash. Government authorities and researchers have reached the conclusion that the cost of (a) the water and electricity used for cleaning household trash, (b) transportation from trash collection centers, and (c) the final recycling process is actually less than would be necessary to produce these materials from scratch. Of course, they don’t count the literally millions of times people drive to the recycling centers to empty their trash bins; neither do they count, for instance, energy and costs for the extra housing space required for a dozen extra trash bins in every home.

Economically, Swedish recycling is a disaster. Imagine a whole population spending time and money cleaning their garbage and driving it around the neighborhood rather than working or investing in a productive market! According to the government’s books, more money flows in than flows out; therefore recycling is profitable. But this ignores the costs of coercion.

. . . people’s garbage piles up next to the overflowing containers while the government contractors sit idle: they are only paid to empty the containers on schedule, not to pick up the trash sitting next to these containers. The result? Disease and rats. Newspapers have been reporting on a ‘rat invasion’ in Stockholm and in other Swedish cities in recent years.

. . . .

Interestingly enough, the system is too socialist even for Sweden’s number one socialist newspaper, Aftonbladet. In an op-ed on January 4, 2002, Lena Askling wrote on the public garbage collection system:

We [consumers] are supposed to sort, compost, parcel, store, and transport the trash. We are supposed to keep on with this cockamamie of storing compost garbage in small containers in apartments and villas and then transport the stinking, leaking trash to dedicated bins or collection centers, which seem to always be brim-full.

Why in the name of the Lord cannot the government introduce ‘market incentives’ to stimulate industry and producers to develop rational packaging and garbage disposal systems enabling recycling, energy production and future import revenue? And perhaps a consumer friendly and hygienically acceptable system instead of the current trash and filth chaos?

While I’m waiting, mice are scurrying around in my garbage compartment.

Even Askling, who writes socialist propaganda for a living, knows the Swedish recycling scheme doesn’t work; and she concludes it is in need of more market.

Please enlighten me, wherein lies the so-often-acclaimed success of this system?