John Tierney, writer of the Findings column for The New York Times Science section, penned a lengthy piece in Sunday's New York Times blasting the practice of recycling in the United States.
It's not the first time Tierney has taken aim at the recycling industry. He wrote a piece nearly 20 years ago called Recycling is Garbage, also for the Times.
In his latest piece, Tierney writes about many of the issues that the industry has discussed of late, including the difficulties in managing the costs of recycling and making it work economically. But he also blasts recycling on environmental grounds, saying that in many cases there is no benefit to the practice. In some cases, he says, recycling generates more carbon dioxide than it saves.
While it’s true that the recycling message has reached more people than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all.
Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies.
The future for recycling looks even worse. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish.
Waste360 explored many of these same issues in our recent special report on recycling. To check that out, go here.