Why recycling is bad for the environment.

Anti-recycle buttonWe live in a world of ever-diminishing resources. Our supplies are running out both of raw materials to make things out of, and of ways to get rid of them when we’ve finished with them. So, we’re now being asked to recycle our waste – everything from milk bottles to cars and televisions.

Whose damnfool idea was that?

A few years ago, we got our milk in glass bottles. The milkman would leave them on the doorstep, and when we’d drunk the contents, he’d come back and take the empties away. The dairy would wash them out, refill them, and give them back full of milk. Round and round they went, filling and emptying, filling and emptying. And when a bottle finally wore out or got broken or became too revolting or scratched to use any more, it would be sent back to the bottle factory and melted down and turned into a whole new bottle, ready to go round and round all over again.

It wasn’t just milk. Fizzy pop came in glass bottles too, and 10p-worth of pop would carry a 1p deposit on the bottle. Even if you didn’t care enough about the penny to take the bottle back to the shop, you could leave the bottle lying around somewhere and all the local kids would collect them for the pennies. All the bottles fit for re-use would be re-used.

How great for the environment is that? And this is the days before anyone cared very much about the environment.

Nowadays we don’t do it like that. Nowadays milk and pop come in plastic bottles, on grounds of that catch-all excuse “Health and Safety”. But consider this:

Glass milk bottles

Plastic milk bottle

Glass bottles cost about 6p to make. Plastic bottles cost about 6p to make
Glass bottles can be used on average ten times. Plastic bottles can be used only once (because it’s impossible to sterilise them).
At the end of their life, glass bottles can be melted down and turned into new bottles At the end of their life, plastic bottles can’t be turned into new bottles, they can’t buried in landfill (because they stay there for 24,000 years), and they can’t be burned (because they release gallons of miasma which poisons our fresh, clean air)

The only thing you can do with a plastic bottle, once you’ve drunk its contents, is to recycle it. Recycling old bottles is the green thing to do, the environmentally-responsible thing to do. It’s – well, it’s a bloody stupid thing to do, actually!

Since the dustbin men won’t take my bottles away, I’ve got to load them into the back of my car and drive (carbon … carbon) to the dump, where they’re put into a skip. Then a lorry comes along, picks up the skip, and drives (carbon, carbon) to the docks where the bottles are poured into containers and loaded onto a ship which steams halfway around the world (CARBON! CARBON!) to China, where they all get “recycled”.

You know what happens in China? There’s actually not much of any use that you can make out of waste plastic – it’s no good for food, so you can’t make new bottles out of it – so half of it gets burned right away on huge, stinking bonfires – so there goes our clean air. The other half gets shredded, drawn, and eventually rendered down into clothes (fleeces, blankets, and so on), loaded back on a ship, and sent (CARBON! CARBON!) back here, so we can wear our garbage.

And when our garbage clothes eventually wear out? What then? We throw them away (because not even the Chinese can think of anything to do with old woollies). It goes into landfill (because, remember, you can’t burn it). And says there for – you have been listening, haven’t you? – 24,000 years! Did you know that 75% of non-biodegradable landfill is clothes? So it ends up as landfill anyway, in spite of all that transportation and processing.

(Note to self: perhaps global warming isn’t caused by carbon at all – perhaps it’s caused by mountains of worn-out winter clothes piling up all over the planet!)

Does this pantomime make any sense to you? It shouldn’t. It’s insane. Worse than that, it’s expensively insane. Worse still: it’s expensively, destructively, pointlessly insane. You see, we have a perfectly cheap, simple, and effective alternative staring us in the face. Those old glass bottles: they went back to the bottling plant on the same lorries that transported the full ones: It’s zero cost. You can refill them without having to extract yet more precious oil and wrap up the whole of South Wales in threadbare hoodies: Still zero cost. You can turn old, end-of-life bottles into shiny new bottles for next-to-zero cost.

And if you really believe the health and safety propaganda that your fellow humans’ spittle is toxic to life even after having been sterilised in a bottling plant at 500 degrees, then you can use cardboard cartons instead. You can’t re-use them, of course, but you can burn them: they’re made of trees, and that means (a) they don’t make sticky oily smoke that stays dangerous for 24,000 years, and (b) they don’t raise carbon dioxide levels.

If I could buy my milk in returnable glass bottles I would. If I could buy milk in cardboard Tetrapaks, I would. But when I look in my dustbin, it is populated entirely by plastic bottles, plastic food trays, plastic carrier bags, and plastic coated oojamaflips. I’m being told that I have to take responsibility for getting rid of my rubbish, and I can’t simply throw it away. But this isn’t my rubbish, and it shouldn’t be my problem – I never wanted it in the first place! Why do I have to find a way to get rid of someone else’s rubbish?

It seems to me that if we can’t re-use something, re-purpose it, or dispose of it cleanly, then we have no business making it at all. We shouldn’t be trying to figure out expensive and environmentally-destructive ways of recycling this stuff – we should never have made it in the first place!

So I have a suggestion to make. I think we should return to the principle behind the old glass milk bottles. I think, instead of taking empty plastic bottles to the dump, we should be allowed take them (along with all the other, useless, toxic packages) back to the shop we bought them from, and they should be obliged to take them.

I know the store doesn’t determine what sort of packaging the milk comes in, so it seems harsh that they should be lumbered with its disposal. So they, in turn should be able to pass it on, up the chain to their supplier, and so on, until it reaches its point of manufacture. If nobody can find anybody else who wants it, the original manufacturer should take responsibility for it – preparing it for re-use, re-purposing it, or disposing of it in an environmentally-civilised manner (that is: not dumping it all on a stinky Chinese bonfire!)

Now, this will do two things: firstly, it will build the cost of getting rid of the packaging right into the cost of the product, where it should be: hard-to-dispose packaging will be relatively expensive, and so unattractive both to retailers and their customers. Secondly, it will encourage producers to select packaging which either (a) has a lasting value (as in the case of the endlessly-circulating milk bottles) or (b) which can be disposed of as far down the chain as possible (for example when burning cardboard cartons for heating).

So: reduce – definitely! Re-use – by all means. But recycle? No. It’s bad for the environment. Don’t get involved. Just say “No”.

60 Responses to Why recycling is bad for the environment.

  1. Joe R says:

    I never used to see trash and empty bottles lying around since they were actually worth something. Now they’re everywhere. This never made any sense to me.

    No one fixes anything any more. They just throw it away and buy a new one. My car is 10 years old. It gets better fuel mileage than it’s latest and greatest version. I keep it in good repair and it’s emissions are very low. It has very little resale value so If I were to trade it in, it wouldn’t be long before it was another rotting pile of junk. Even if a new replacement polluted less and got better mileage, it wouldn’t make up for the environmental impact of producing it. I’m often asked why I don’t buy a new computer. Why? This one works fine.

    The fact is that recycling is big business and we bought into it hook, line, and sinker. People are dumb.

  2. Pamela Ruddy says:

    Hi Jules,

    I’m from Angus Writers’ Circle and I just thought I would pop onto your blog to let you know how much I appreciated your article. As a frustrated WordPress blogger myself (no posts in 2007 at all!) I am very impressed at the quality of work you use yours for. It is funny and poignant in equal measure. I have heard that we ship our recycling to China, but I didn’t really stop to consider how ridiculous the whole thing was until now.

    The futility and arrogance of it reminds me of learning that while Catalyst Converters in cars stop us from having acid rain in our cities, the town that creates them (or the major component of them) in China (or was it Russia) is blighted by acid rain itself.

    We haven’t solved the problem, we’ve just moved it somewhere else. We don’t have to look at it or feel it’s effects so we can happily drive as much as we want knowing that WE are not being as bad for the environment as we used to be.

    Any roads, I’m rambling. Great article. Well done.

    Pamela

  3. Jules says:

    Is it done to comment on one’s own post? It’s OK: I’m proxy commenting!

    I was told the other day, by a friend who read this article, of her memory in the 1940s of getting into the cinema on payment of a jam jar. The empty jam jar was worth as much to the cinema as the entry price – and of course, in those days, most housewives made their own jam.

  4. julesmay says:

    It’s an old post, but you might be interested in http://www.cyberis.net/~nicholso/recycle/

  5. olivya says:

    I agree with your comment. my teacher told me about how people reuse a plastic bottle and not good for your health. recycling is not as green as we thought. my teacher said on the bottom of plastic bottle water you can see a number in each recycling sign. if you see a number 1 and 2 that a plastic bottle that you can recycling but, if you see a number 3 through 8 that not a good number to recycle.

    • Aidan says:

      Thats really interesting. Because of that logic would follow that a majorty of plastic bottles aren’t really recyclable anyway

  6. a very mad teenage kid who wants a better life for future kids! says:

    ya but if you look at it, it is helping our environment. if you look at it its way better than just leaving them around for the animals to swallow. you have to look toward the future. what if we were to just leave everything and watch as the animals and our environment go to crap. thats no fair to our kids when they grow up in a world that doesnt have healthy air to breath in and stuff like that.OPEN YOUR EYES YOU ANTI-RECYCLE FREAKS!!!!!!!

    [jules replies] But, very_mad_kid, I did open my eyes, and I did look at it, and what I found was that recycling doesn’t actually seem to help the animals. Or your children. Actually, it seems to make matters worse!

    I’m not anti-green. Quite the reverse. That’s why I think we shouldn’t be making non-disposable garbage at all. That way you couldn’t leave it lying around, and you couldn’t spend a fortune failing to get rid of it properly, and it wouldn’t send our environment to crap, because it wouldn’t exist.

    Open your eyes, very_mad_kid: 90% of the recycling industry is just more of the same old con. Wise up and grow up.

    • jayderrty says:

      very_mad_kid probably should have learned some reading comprehension skills before posting something so ridiculous that didn’t make much sense about a well written article. our next subject…..teaching our youth how to comprehend and think critically while reading.

      • patrick says:

        owneddddddd

      • beronica says:

        i think very mad kid is right. Im doing a recycling essay and this article has a good argument and all but this is one of the feww while people that do recycle have more articles and acurete so what im trying to say is recycling is good for our inviroment and yes it does end up in our lanfills anyway but it takes longer so our planet can have more time untill its tottally polluted

      • Guy Who thinks He Knows Mad Kid... says:

        Man did you even read the post i mean if you just listened to his points and Penn And Teller on recycling you would agree with us all

      • Jay says:

        ^ Yes, I read the post……and 2 years later, I still feel that mad kid is a complete moron.

    • jocool says:

      well thats cool and all, but the problem is HARDLY ANYTHING IS MADE OUT OF DISPOSABLE MATERIALS!!! So we have to deal with the problem at hand and that is recyclables. youpeople are nuts. Yeah it uses energy to recycle, but its much less than producing it from new materials.

      [Jules replies] I don’t have a problem with things being made out of non-disposable materials, so long as we can reuse them when they’re made. One example: I take my old beer and wine and pop bottles to the bottle bank for “recycling”, because there’s no reuse process. There, they get smashed up, meted down, and made into new bottles. Good, yes? No: Bad. See, bottles are made of sand – the most common substance on earth. It makes no difference to bury bottles, because they came out of the ground in the first place. All the value in the bottle is in forming it – the energy required to melt the glass and cast it into the bottle shape, and we’ve got to do that to the “recycled” bottles exactly the same as the new bottles because they all get mixed up and smashed up at the bottle bank. So recycling saves on something we’ve got no shortage of, and uses just as much energy as making it from new. It’s a complete, utter con.

      The problem at hand is we all want to stop wasting energy making things just to bury them. Then why not make things that are useful, or else stop making garbage at all? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

      • Twinkly says:

        Actually, according to most of the articles I have read, recycling glass does save energy. When done in the most efficient manner, it can save up to 30% of the energy used to make glass from raw materials.

        Good article by the way. It will be very useful when I reach the part in my recycling CDA where I’m supposed to explain why some people don’t agree with recycling.

    • WTFbloggers says:

      Jules, you are an idiot. Same with the rest of you mindless followers of this cause. First of all, we can all cry about the past and how it’s no longer here. What will that fix? Oh right, NOTHING. The fact of the matter is that people are too lazy nowadays to do what people did with those old glass bottles. Everything is easy and no one cares enough to do that. I’m not saying that this is good, it’s a horrible way to live. But that’s how things are now. Stop living in the past.
      Recycling is the best we’ve got now. It’s not making things worse. Throwing garbage in landfills and burning it is. The writer of this article obviously has no idea what he is talking about. He says, “But recycle? No. It’s bad for the environment. Don’t get involved. Just say “No”.” Ok yeah, that’s a great idea. Just throw it all your trash in a landfill where it can rot and release chemicals into the water that we drink and the air we breath. I’ll tell you what, recycling is a hell of a lot better for the environment than not doing anything.
      I can’t believe how many people comment on this article and believe the stuff the author is saying just because he said it. It’s a bloody shame how people don’t know jack shit about stuff and believe whatever they hear.
      Jocool and the very mad kid are right and all you others who are bashing them are just down right stupid. It is sick that people write shit like this article.

      Jules says: You say “..people are too lazy nowadays to do what people did with those old glass bottles.” Not so. I’m reliably informed that in Germany, a return deposit is normal practice. Furthermore, I was in the US last week, and I received bottles with the deposit (5c and 10c) printed on the side. It seems to me that these old, practical techniques are being re-used.

      But, most of all, you are making yourself look stupid by trying to put words into my mouth. I have said it times without number: I am opposed to just putting everything in the trash too. Landfill doesn’t feel like a good answer either. Re-use, re-purpose: that’s what I said. But making stuff for the sole purpose of trying to make it, expensively and pollutingly, into something else is utterly dumb.

      The evidence seems to be against you. Recycling is not better for the environment than not doing anything (with the possible exception of aluminium). Not doing anything is actually rather good for the environment. Doing something smart is better still. But, landfill is crap, and self-righteous pollution has nothing to recommend it at all.

      • Ashley says:

        WTF Bloggers you are the actual idiot. I dont see why ur mind is unable to comprehend that not all recycling is good for the environment. yes some of it is but not all…

  7. matt says:

    The Americans brought over the idea of plastic bottles for milk. In fact the Americans introduced fast food, gyms, dieting, tanning clinics, etc. Glass is good. Just wish it wasn’t double the price!

  8. Mallorie says:

    I can’t believe people actually believe in being wasteful. Yeah its true not everything can be recycled, But the earth is not intended for mankind to dump things at our leisure and expect that we will have enough resources to last us forever. Eventually things will run out and recycling is just a way to slow that process and preserve things. The World is a cycle of its own. always renewing itself and regenerating energy, therefore recycling is a humans way to help the earth, or to give back to the earth in that process.

    [Jules replies:] I’m not sure I understand whether you’re agreeing with me, or disagreeing. I agree wholeheartedly that waste is repugnant. My point is that what passes for most “recycling” is actually an expensive way of achieving nothing at all, and does no good either to the planet, or to you and me. And that’s worse, because it’s both wasteful and hypocritical.

  9. Angelique says:

    jules…love the article at first i didnt under stand what you where going at… but now i get it quite clearly…..if recycling is so bad then why does everyone say to recycle? Also what would have to be done to change to glass milk bottles?? this is all very confusing someone should jus come out nd say what is right and what is wrong!! with fact concluding their views so everyone can understand it all….if youd like email me…if you can answer anyting

    Angelique “]

    rainbow_cotton_candy@yahoo.com

    [jules replies] Not all recycling is bad. But a large amount of recycling is both wasteful and ineffective. Why doesn’t someone come out and tell you? I did! :-) Why aren’t other people telling you? Because phony recycling is big business and vote-winning.

    What would have to be done? I’ve written to my local supermarkets, but I’m only one voice. I buy my milk in Tetrapaks instead of plastic bottles (and I cancelled my doorstep delivery when the dairy switched from glass to plastic). But ultimately, all any of us can do is vote with our wallets and make sure the powers that be understand why we’re doing so.

  10. People need to recycle! Just imagine no christmas trees!!!!

  11. Nathan says:

    Excellent article. Almost a year later and it’s more relevant than ever. With the green movement moving more quickly into the arms of big businesses, its high time for people to open their eyes about the sham we’ve bought into. With Obama placing the environment as his number one concern in the 2nd presidential debate, I can only hope he will be as smart as he sounds when it comes to policy implementation per “Global warming”, recycling, clean fuel, etc.

    I have heard elsewhere (other sites and Penn and Teller’s show “Bullshit” had an episode on recycling) that the only item that can be recycled that does more good than harm to the environment is aluminum. I’ve heard that glass is actually cheaper and more environmentally sound to make new than to try to recycle, and that paper uses so many chemicals and bleaching agents that the damage to our waterways and ground water far outways the end product of recycled paper.

    At the end of the day, from what I’ve read, I’m a supporter of the British and Canadian model of using Hemp production for biodegradable plastics, clothing fibers, paper, biofuels, and numerous other products. What are your thoughts on industrial hemp (with significantly negligible thc levels of course) as an environmentalists dream come true?

  12. Adrian says:

    Your suggestion is precisely what they do in Germany: shops have to charge a deposit on plastic bottles and take them back. The hope is that the shops get so sick of this that they stop stocking items in plastic altogether, but in the mean time, I don’t know whether they have any more control over where they all end up than in the days when half a million German “yellow sacks” turned up on a beach in Thailand.

    The problem is not plastic per-se; it’s the additives they use, many of which, as organic compounds involving heavy metals, are ferociously poisonous. Pure polythene is just carbon and hydrogen: burning it would be no better or worse than burning petrol, but without the additives it’s a bit floppy for a supermarket shelf. Plastics do have their advantages, so rather than demonising all of them, we should be researching and legislating for smart compromises between cleanliness and practicality.

    As for biodegradable plastics: I’ll support that again when the guy who sold me a bag of peat in the stuff comes to clean up my balcony. Nathan’s idea of biodegradable clothing is food for thought too: who needs fashion when your clothes are time bombed? That still leaves the problem of what to do with all the plastic bottles we’ve already got, so my advice is to throw them all into the sea and come back in a million years to see if some octopus has evolved the idea of using them for shells. That’s if the polar bears don’t snatch them up first for arm-bands.

  13. Fera says:

    I think I get the gist of what you’re trying to say here: Recycling is expensive and wasteful, the problem comes from the source: actually making the plastic.

    Good article.

  14. polythenepam says:

    recycling good reusing sooooo much better – I have cotton produce bags I use for my veges, glass milk bottles and a milkman, string bag natch and I refill my washing up and cleaning liquids bottles at my local health food store – Oh and we can still get fizzy drinks in returnable glass bottles over here in Huddersfield – for details on the above go to http://www.plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com

    [Jules replies] I’ve discovered recently, that Scotland’s other national drink – Irn Bru – is supplied in glass bottles, which carry a deposit. Three cheers for Irn Bru!

  15. dennis says:

    great article, i have tried to explain this to my friends but my friends thought i was full of crap, i couldnt explain it lie this, good job!!

  16. Stacy says:

    I totally agree! It even goes bigger than glass bottles, etc like you mentioned. Why don’t people fix cars anymore? A few years, 1 too many problems and they buy a new one. Most people don’t even know how to change their own oil let alone repair their own car like “back in the day”.

    Same goes for clothing, it’s got a tear? Toss it and buy a new one! Don’t fix the thing, right?

    I can’t believe people throw so much stuff away, it is unreal!

  17. Valinsca Eldiablo says:

    What??? Just leave the bottles on the street? Thats STUPID!!!!!! who puts pennys in bottles????? you dont know what you are talking about!!!!!

  18. nichols200 says:

    Hi I totally agree with you. I am doing a school project on why it is bad because i refused to recycle plastic bottles. I got detention, but i am tring to save the earth as you article says.

  19. Gerry says:

    what a great article,,, and i’ve never even heard nor thought about this. my guess is that plastic came into vogue because it’s lighter and doesn’t break and cut anybody but a few cuts for the sake of all humanity seems reasonable to me. thanks for the great article!

  20. steveb says:

    Agree with the principles. Recyling stuff reduces our need for fresh natural resources and reduces what we stick in the ground. BUT moving the stuff around while we recyle it is terrible for CO2 emissions. As most of the recycle mantra was put about to allow councils to meet EU land fill reduction targets, they never considered how much diesel would be needed for those curbside pickups and centralised recycling.
    By the way, our council now has more vehicles on the road collecting the separated recyclable materials than it ever has for old fashioned mixed rubbish going to landfill (and we still get the old style rubbish collection vehicles too).

    Add up the CO2 emmisions from moving all that ‘soon to be recycled material’ about, and suddenly one doesn’t feel so smug. Even worse as the blogger states, take 1kg 5 miles down the road to your council tip in your SUV just for extra insanity.

    More energy/water is also used by good citizens washing all those tins and plastic cartons cos we don’t like the smell do we while we wait for the collection.

    We need a holistic approach to the environment, not just ‘recycle good, landfill bad’ thinking.

  21. Sara says:

    I never saw it this way but I agree with it and it will be perfect for my science class debate tomarow

  22. Amelia says:

    is there any way to win this battle? i want the earth to be as healthy as it can be. could we pay the trash guys to take the recycling too, or should we just go back to the glass milk-bottle days? i was reading this other anti recycling article and the guy said that he wishes he could take his plastic jar of peanut butter and refill it at his local store. to me that sounds like a good idea. but use glass bottles instead.
    If anyone knows how to make the world more clean please tell me!

    • Jules says:

      I share your concern – I too want a clean planet. I think the glass milk bottle, if not the actual solution, at least points the way. See; it seems to me that the difference between recycling and manufacturing new is purely the re-use of raw materials. But what the planet is short of is not raw materials, it’s energy, and recycling costs more in energy than manufacturing new. (If that were not so, recycling would be the lower cost option, and we’d all be doing it anyway.)

      I live in a house which is 250 years old. When it was built, there was no garbage collection, no landfill, and no concept of recycling. There was just value in everything. Admittedly, they used less in those days, but they certainly got the best value out of everything they had. They did so by re-using everything. A bottle would get filled and refilled time and time again, and when it finally broke, it would be buried in a spoil heap at the end of the garden. Today, I look for every opportunity to reuse old objects – to the point where I refuse to buy new parts for my car where a salvage item is obtainable (and it usually is!)

      I think we should look for the utility in every article we have manufactured, just as our grandparents did. Then recycling would be redundant.

  23. Andy says:

    A couple comments/questions:

    1. The web is full articles and blogs claiming that recycling wastes more energy than sending things to the landfill and just producing new stuff. This is possible, but is it true? Can anyone point to the actual research that would be necessary? One cannot simply use their wit, the answer has to be in research.

    2. Glass bottled milk is available, I buy it, and return my bottles. I do this mainly because the milk is local, fresh and unpasteurized. Still, it takes a lot of fuel to send that heavy glass from the bottling facility to the warehouse to the store, and then backwards as an empty bottle. Plastic is very lightweight in comparison. Less fuel to transport. Again, we need research to determine where the balance lies. Researchers must factor in everything, including the energy spent producing glass (they break or chip eventually and do not get reused for ever) versus the plastic production and the fuel of transportation and cleaning the glass. And we also have to look at total cost… so not just energy, but water (in cleaning) and anything else.

    3. Peanut butter also comes in bulk in my cooperative, “natural food” grocery store. I put the peanut butter in plastic usually, because it’s lighter weight. However, I am concerned about plastic residues in my diet and am considering glass for that reason.

    4. Great topic! Lets keep up yjr critical thinking and always question and re-question. What do we really know? What information do we lack?

    Jules replies:

    Please don’t confuse my position: I’m absolutely not in favour of sending things to landfill and making new. I agree that’s unsustainable and wasteful. I’m just unconvinced that recycling offers anything very much better.

    The economics of glass vs plastic single-use milk bottles is well-understood. Manufacturing costs are roughly equal, glass bottles last roughly ten cycles, cleaning costs are about 10% of manufacturing costs, remanufacturing cost are lower, and the transportation cost (compared with, say, an empty lorry) is marginal, The only reason plastic bottles are cost-effective is that, for the manufacturer and distributor, the disposal cost is zero, It’s far from zero for you and me, though.

    You know what? I’m not even against plastic. I applaud you refilling your peanut butter container. That’s just how it’s supposed to be!

  24. Bri-oh says:

    Hey,

    Wow. Shocking article. However, this goes against everything I’ve been taught. Could you please give me some of your resources that you used?? (especially for the China part)

    I’ve always thought that recycled materials go to a local recycling plant and then they get recycled there. Where did you get the information that it went to China??? If you’re right about that information, then recycling is just downright fucked up.

    Also, is that just for plastics? What about other materials like metals, paper, etc? Do those get sent to China also?

    Good article though!

  25. Delaina says:

    I think that you are incorrect in several areas. Recycling is expensive yes but that is because people are cheap and have turned into Walmart zombies that dont want to pay what something is really worth. It seems to me that your problem is not even the recycling but the plastic. Do you really think that recycling companies get manufacturers to use plastic so they can make a buck? Or do you think that companies use plastic because it’s cheap and plentiful. Besides I dont hear you comming up with any alternative solutions.

    Jules replies: But I am offering alternative solutions. My point is: it’s insane to spend money (and resources, and carbon dioxide) or recycling garbage when we should never have made the stuff in the first place. We should make packaging that gets re-used, not recycled. Things like refillable glass bottles instead of (not-very-recyclable) plastic bottles. Things like paper bags instead of plastic packets.
    You’re right, companies use plastic bottles because they’re cheap. That’s no excuse. Companies poisoned Bhopal and Love Canal because it was cheaper than operating safely, cleanly and sustainably. Today, we tax and prosecute polluters into submission. Non-reusable packaging should be regarded the same way.

  26. sam says:

    when you talk about the glass bottle and reusing it that is recycling itself you idiot its recycling reusing something so you are saying that recycling is good not bad like you think you are saying

  27. sam says:

    i don’t think you did a good job like everybody else says i think you did a bad jop with saying recycling is bad but what you are actually saying is recycling is good so do you like recycling or not don’t forget the fact that reusing a glass bottle and spraying it so it can be used again and if it is broken you can just take it back and melt and just make another one out of it but that is recycling itself so use your brain mate.

  28. joe says:

    by the way what you are saying is that recycling is a good thing not a bad thing because you are saying that plastic is a bad idea and i agree but when you talk about just using glass bootles that is recycling itself reusing it is recycling itself if it breaks and you can just melt it down and make another one with it that is recycling itself so you are saying recycling is good not bad so when you say whos damfool idea is that well since you are saying recycling is good you are a fool so you are wrong with what you are saying you should probably read your thing again and then you would see that i bet so many people have read this and laughed when they see about the glass botles and thin king you are a complete retard but i don’t think you are a complete retard you just made a mistake with what you have written on your page here so you did well with what you have done but next time learn the facts firest before you write.

    [Jules replies] .. and clearly you, too, are a fan of recycling, judging by the repetition of your comments!

    You’re missing the point. reuse is not recycling. Reuse means the thing goes round and round. Recycling is supposed to mean the same thing (look at the symbol) but actually it does no such thing. It’s supposed to be good for the planet, but in most cases it makes more waste, and uses more energy, than just throwing it away.

    I don’t approve of most of what passes for recycling. I don’t approve of just throwing stuff away either. I approve of either reuse, or proper disposal – anything else is a con.

  29. Sadness at Seeing This says:

    Your logical fallacies sadden me. Please stop ignoring the reality of producing such items in the first place. Yes, it produces carbon to recycle, but it makes even more to produce new material and it uses up our resources. Driving to the store produces carbon too.. you also ignore the costs of what you are proposing, by providing no evidence other than “next to nothing”. Oh, and burning your cardboard? That’s not good for the environment either (you are competely incorrect about fires not raising carbon levels. the product of burning anything is not only carbon, but carcinogenic- that means it gives you cancer.) Also, get off your high horse and donate your clothes to people in developing countries who need them. Because you are right, throwing them away is waste. I agree plastic is bad- lets stop producing what can’t be recycled.
    And I don’t know where you live, but my recycling it re-manufactured within 100 miles of where I am- not china? Sounds like where you live is a cesspool. Maybe you guys should take action and change things rather than sitting on your blog complaining.

    You really want to help the environment? Get some solar panels and an electric car. Replace your light bulbs and appliances. Donate your old clothes. Because what we invest into now will pay us back later- you will sow what you reap, and all you are reaping is a destroyed planet that won’t even be able to sustain life.

    [Jules replies] And your misrepresentation of what I’m saying saddens me. You’re quite right, it takes carbon to recycle, but you’re not right that it takes more to produce new: in many cases it takes less! But, surely it’s perfectly obvious that it takes least energy of all to reuse. I’m not advocating doing without, or manufacturing new each time. I’m advocating designing our garbage so that it’s not garbage. It’s not rocket science!
    I think you need to check out the science about burning cardboard. It releases carbon into the air, but it’s already sucked up that carbon when it was a growing tree. It’s carbon-neutral. That’s why there’s that big push for wood-burning boilers at the moment.

    I think you’re lucky that you live so close to your recycling plant. Tell me: what do they recycle there? (Trust me: it’s not “everything”!)

    By the way: got solar panels (not very effective, I’m afraid). I select products based on their green packaging credentials (real green, not phony recyclability) and I work from home most of the time, thus obviating even an electric car (and, I’m curious, what do you think an electric car runs off? Coal? Gas? Or Uranium?) I, and many others, are doing a whole lot more about this than whining.

  30. Caroline says:

    I’m sorry but I cannot read any of this without being embarrassed . I am in fifth grade. I just can’t believe it.

  31. Kyle says:

    Hi. I happened to read this article while searching for stuff to use on my debate class.

    I absolutely agree with you. I believe that reusing is the one and only way that can help mother nature. I think this article is simply brilliant.

    By the way, my mother-tongue is not English, rather, it is Korean, and since I am only educated with American style of English, forgive me if any of my grammar, spelling, expression et cetra irritates you.

    Whatever. Still, I believe that recycling is the second-best alternative to landfilling. Perhaps for places where the concept of ‘reuse’ is not widespread, recycling is the best way to be green?

  32. joe the squirrel says:

    someone mentioned it above, Penn and Teller’s show “Bullshit”. Everyone on earth should watch the episode on recycling.

  33. kaf120 says:

    I thought this was completely stupid. Recycling material is better than just throwing it away, then the incinerators have to burn them.(GASSES GASSES GASSES)

    [Jules replies] I don’t get it. How many times do I have to say “I’m against just throwing it away” before you’ll stop saying “Ah, but recycling is better than throwing it away”. Listen up: Throwing it away: Baaad! Recycling: Bad, sometimes worse. Not making garbage in the first place: Gooood! How hard is that?

  34. Aidan says:

    How about this: ONLY MAKE THE SHIT THAT WE CAN RECYLE.

    [Jules replies] That would work.

  35. beronica says:

    Look ”jules” you keep on saying that recycling is bad or maybe worse than trowing it away well YOUR WRONG VERY.Yes not making trash in the first place would be the solution but WHEN IS THAT EVER GOING TO HAPPEN.You see you have to think about that and you obiouslly didnt so let me tell you recycling is the second best sollution to do.

    [Jules replies] You can tell me until you’re blue in the face, but the evidence is against you. Recycling doesn’t prevent landfill (as you concede in your other comment). Recycling doesn’t save energy (if it did, recycled stuff would be the cheap option). Recycling doesn’t save the planet. It’s a con. You’ve been conned.
    You say using reusable stuff – or properly disposable stuff – isn’t ever going to happen. Well, on the one hand, as long as people like you believe people like me are morons or crooks, it’s not. On the other hand, it’s how things used to happen. Less than a hundred years ago, hardly anything got thrown out. Everything was re-used, repurposed, or repaired. We could get much closer to that ethic than we do now.

    • Sanity Checks says:

      Beronica,I have just read this post and then I read your previous post. If I understand you correctly, we can stop killing the planet or we can postpone killing the planet until tomorrow, and you think the latter is better?

      It would seem that this article is not just evidence of the insanity of recycling it can be held up as evidence that the education system in this country is in dire need of an overhaul.

      If we all just accept what we are told by our schools, councils and big business without question. Then nothing would change. Sometimes someone has to point out the bleeding obvious. It would appear to be Jules this time.

      All but the most sadistic person would want to save the planet, but is the current system of recycling the right way to go. If Jules is right then shouldn’t we be fighting to change what we do, rather than postponing the inevitable by continuing with pointless and counterproductive recycling?

  36. Chris says:

    That’s great that people are still commenting on this post. Great article. It’s really too bad that so many people are misundertanding Jules’ point. It takes some critical thinking to see where the writer is coming from, and it takes the willingness to rise out of the greenwashing haze we’re in to see things as they really are. Let’s vote with our dollars and demand sustainable products and packaging instead of falsely easing our conscience through band-aid solutions.

    • Karl says:

      To what you were saying about voting with our dollars to demand sustainable products, SunChips® started packaging their chips in 100% biodegradable bags. The bags stated that the material they were made of would biodegrade in just 14 weeks in the right conditions. This form of packaging was recalled because so many customers were complaining that the bags were too noisy. That just goes to show that people just don’t care about the environment, and they won’t until it’s too late.

  37. Jack says:

    i think recycling is pretty good

  38. i am glad that i found this site because my stupid R.A. is making me write posters on how recycling is very important….. this is so stupid that u get punished for this….

  39. was an interesting read to see the views of someone that does not like recycling. The problem is that we have come this far so we might as well recycle to try and make it better.

    [Jules replies] – Really? How far do you think we’ve come? As far as I can see, recycling doesn’t save our precious resources (only the abundant ones!), it generally costs more energy than it saves, it doesn’t seem to save landfill, and it manifestly doesn’t save money. I’m genuinely bemused – when all is said and done, what benefit do you see that recycling is really delivering?

  40. Gorjaira says:

    I hate people who are n00b’s. Recycling is good for the econemy!

    Ps: I recycle.

  41. lauren says:

    Thank yoooou for writing this =D i know it must be fustrating since not every one has the compasity to take a point. But youve put something ive been wanting to express for a long time in clear, logical, and charismatic fashion. so bravo. i hope you dont mind me using this as a research source for my argumentative speech in class. again thanks =D

  42. Maria says:

    Hey Jules,

    A group of my friends and I took up the challenge to write a newspaper article for a Science Mueseum, if we win, this article will be published. And as I was just searching up the disadvantages of recycling, I came across your article and saw much sense in it. This is why I was wondering weather I could use some of the contents within your article for my newspaper article.
    It would be much appreciated if I could.
    Many thanks,
    Maria

    [Jules replies] Of course you can. Just be sure to credit the source, as usual.

  43. Anna says:

    Not all plastic is bad. There are biodegradable variants, look for them! One example is Ecolean, a company started by the old owner of TetraPak.

  44. smile says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Im so glad that someone besides just me has figured out how horrible the garbage and recycling industry is. We have all been duped into thinking we were saving the environment when really we were supporting big business. EVERYONE KNOCK OVER AS MANY GARBAGE CANS AS YOU CAN. WE NEED TO WAKE PEOPLE UP!

  45. girl who you dont know says:

    thankyou so much for writing this! ihave an essay and ill surely wright about this it will the audience to concentrate on me because
    we need to wright something that will surely get their attention.
    thanks alot again i thought that recycling was good now i know its half good and bad because there is different kinds of plastic and some of them can be recycled. So you see not all plastics are bad!!!!!
    (ps:can i write this essay for my class report?)

  46. Rosita says:

    You have made some decent points there. I checked on the internet to find out more about the
    issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.

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