Recycling: a cult of spurious virtue 10

Recycling is largely a waste of time, money, and energy.

Apart from metals and one or two other things, nothing is worth recycling.

Our guess is that some people like doing it because it makes them feel good, which is nice for them.

But what if recycling is in most cases worse than useless?

In a 2013 article, ListVerse set out 10 ways in which recycling positively hurts the environment. We paraphrase the list:

Contamination: if there are impurities or toxins on the original material—say lead paint from an aluminum spray can—they’ll usually make it through the recycling process and end up buried in the new product, which might turn out to be, say, a soda can. The worst part is that sometimes we don’t know when something’s contaminated—until it’s too late. For example, we’re just realizing that hundreds of buildings in Taiwan made from recycled steel have been giving people gamma radiation poisoning for the past twelve years.

The recycling process itself produces a lot of pollutants—from the exhaust billowing out of recycling trucks to energy used at recycling plants. In 2009 there were about 179,000 waste collection vehicles on the road—that’s both recycling and garbage collection. The exhaust from each one of those vehicles contains over three dozen airborne toxins. Both garbage trucks and recycling trucks run on fossil fuels, and they both produce exhaust. By adding more trucks to the fleet, no matter what their purpose, we’re increasing air pollution. And that’s not even considering the recycling facilities. One recycling plant in Washington state produces more toxic emissions than any other factory in the region. And the next three biggest polluters in the area? Yeah, they’re also recycling plants.

When paper is recycled, it’s all mixed together into a pulp. That pulp is washed, cleaned, and then pressed into new paper sheets. During that process, wastes like paper fibers, inks, cleaning chemicals, and dyes are filtered out into one giant pudding known as paper sludge. The sludge is then either burned or sent to a landfill, where it can leach dozens of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into groundwater. Eighty-seven percent of new paper now comes from trees that are raised for the sole purpose of paper production. The US harvests about fifteen million acres of forest each year, but they’re planting twenty-two million – every year we have seven million more acres of forest. More recycling will actually reduce the demand for those forests.

There are about seven types of plastic that you’ll find in day to day life, and only two of them are recyclable. Anything else placed in a recycling bin will be collected, processed, and sorted, and then thrown straight into a landfill. Even trying to recycle some things—for example the plastic that electronics are packaged in—wastes all those resources.  Take plastic shopping bags as an example of the waste of recycling. It costs $4,000 to recycle one ton of plastic bags, but a ton of recycled bags only sells for $32! As a result, about 300,000 tons of them end up in a landfill every year.

It would seem to make sense to try to recycle used oil back into something useful. But more often than not, recycling creates even more toxic chemicals in the process. Most small scale oil treatment centers use something known as the acid-clay process. This gets impurities out of the oil, but leaves you with a toxic sludge containing all of those impurities, plus dangerous chemicals like hydrochloric acid. So what do they do with that toxic waste? They burn it, sending chemicals like nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide into the air. And that’s pretty much the official method, even though it’s about as effective at fighting pollution as saving a person from drowning by throwing them in a lake.

Even the recycling of metals is not always the economic good it would seem to be:

Demand for most recyclable products is growing way too fast to keep up with anything that recycling can—at the moment—provide. Aluminum is especially difficult, since demand for it grows at nearly ten percent every year. That means we’re still going to mine for new aluminum, especially since recycled aluminum isn’t suitable for certain things. For example, recycled soda cans can’t give you the quality you need to build an airplane, or even to use in electronic circuits. Even if the cans go back to being cans, it’s not enough. Here’s some math: The average American drinks 2.5 cans of soda per day. That’s about 778 million cans. If 100,000 cans are recycled every minute (they are), we’re still about 600 million cans short. And that’s just in one day.

And then there’s glass, which comes from sand, the most abundant resource on the planet. The process for recycling glass is more detrimental than the process for creating virgin glass.

One of the recent trends in recycling right now is all-in-one recycling. All the paper, plastic, glass, and metal waste goes into one recycle bin, which is sorted at the factory. The argument is that it requires fewer trucks to pick it all up. But the trade off is even worse—all that extra sorting requires millions of dollars worth of new equipment, and the pollution is just transferred over to the factories that have to build it.

And Daniel J. Mitchell, a Cato Institute libertarian with whom we sometimes – as now – agree, writes (in part) at Townhall Finance:

While it’s very good to have a clean environment, many environmentalists don’t understand cost-benefit analysis. As such, they make our lives less pleasant – inferior light bulbs, substandard toilets, inadequate washing machines, crummy dishwashers, dribbling showers, and dysfunctional gas cans – for little if any benefit. We can add recycling to that list.

To be sure, all the hassle and time of sorting our garbage might be an acceptable cost if something was being achieved. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Not even close.

For recycling to be a socially commendable activity, it has to pass one of two tests: the profit test, or the net environmental-savings test. If something passes the profit test, it’s likely already being done. People are already recycling gold or other commodities from the waste stream, if the costs of doing so are less than the amount for which the resource can be sold.

The real question arises with mandatory recycling programs — people recycle because they will be fined if they don’t, not because they expect to make money. If you add up the time being wasted on recycling rituals, it’s even more expensive to ask each household to do it. The difference is that this is an implicit tax, a donation required of citizens, and doesn’t cost money from the public budget. But time is the least renewable of all resources. For recycling to make any sense, it must cost less to dispose of recycled material than to put the stuff in a landfill. But we have plenty of landfill space, in most of the country. And much of the heaviest material we want to recycle, particularly glass, is chemically inert and will not decompose in a landfill. Landfilling glass does no environmental harm.

So, is [any] recycling useful?  Aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard, if they can be collected clean and at scale, are highly recyclable. But for most other things, recycling harms the environment. If you care about the environment, you should put your bottles and other glass in the regular garbage, every time.

Hundreds of cities have repealed recycling mandates because they simply don’t make sense. … It’s time to admit the recycling mania is a giant placebo. It makes people feel good, but the idea that it improves the condition of humans or the planet is highly dubious.

Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources. Americans became racked with garbage guilt. … Politicians across the country enacted laws mandating recycling and setting arbitrary goals typically requiring that at least 40 percent of trash be recycled, often even more — 50 percent in New York and California, 60 percent in New Jersey, 70 percent in Rhode Island. The Federal Government and dozens of states passed laws that required public agencies, newspapers and other companies to purchase recycled materials.

America today has a good deal more landfill space available than it did 10 years ago. … If Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards deep, by the year 3000 this national garbage heap will fill a square piece of land 35 miles on each side. This doesn’t seem a huge imposition in a country the size of America. …The millennial landfill would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the range land now available for grazing in the continental United States.

Many experts and public officials acknowledge that America could simply bury its garbage, but they object to this option because it diverts trash from recycling programs. Recycling, which was originally justified as the only solution to a desperate national problem, has become a goal in itself. The leaders of the recycling movement raise money and attract new members through their campaigns to outlaw “waste” and prevent landfills from opening. They get financing from public and private sources (including the recycling industry) to research and promote recycling. By turning garbage into a political issue, environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

The bottom line is that most recycling programs impose a fiscal and personal cost on people for very meager environmental benefits. Indeed, the benefits are often negative once indirect costs are added to the equation.

We rest our case.

Posted under Economics by Jillian Becker on Friday, September 6, 2019

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The difference at a glance 3

From Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute.

Also, from the same source comes this:

THE FABLE OF THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER  …  THE PC VERSION

TRADITIONAL VERSION

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be responsible for yourself!

——————————————————————————

OBAMA-REID-PELOSI VERSION

The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving.

CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green.’

ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing, “We shall overcome.” Then Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper’s sake.

President Obama condemns the ant and blames capitalism for the grasshopper’s plight.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar and given to the grasshopper.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading friends finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn’t maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow, never to be seen again.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and once peaceful, neighborhood.

The entire Nation collapses bringing the rest of the free world with it.

MORAL OF THE STORY: If you choose to become a parasite, don’t kill your victim.

Posted under Capitalism, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 12, 2014

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The anniversary of an awful day in American history 4

Yesterday was the anniversary of the start of a very bad thing.

The income tax.

Our creed is: Taxation is theft and income tax is the worst of all taxes.

So we read the following with sad sympathy.

It is from a column at Townhall by  Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute:

On October 3, 1913, one of America’s worst Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, signed into law the Revenue Act of 1913, which imposed the income tax.

The top tax rate was only 7 percent, the tax form was only 2 pages, and the entire tax code was only 400 pages. And a big chunk of the revenue actually was used to lower the tax burden on international trade …

But just as tiny acorns become large oak trees, small taxes become big taxes and simple tax codes become complex monstrosities. And that’s exactly what happened in the United States.

We now have a top tax rate of 39.6 percent, and it’s actually much higher than that when you include the impact of other taxes, as well as the pervasive double taxation of saving and investment. And the relatively simply tax law of 1913 has metastasized into 74,000 pages of Byzantine complexity.

Not to mention that the tax code has become one of the main sources of political corruption in Washington, impoverishing us while enriching the politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and interest groups. Or the oppressive and dishonest IRS.

However, even though I take second place to nobody in my disdain for the income tax, the worst thing about that law is not the tax rates, the double taxation, or the complexity. The worst thing is that the income tax enabled the modern welfare state.

Yes, yes. We heartily agree. Income tax allows redistribution – the robbing of Peter by government to hand out his money to Paul.

The income tax launched socialism on the Western world. A terrible and ultimately fatal disease of the body politic.

Before the income tax, politicians had no way to finance big government. Their only significant pre-1913 sources of revenue were tariffs and excise taxes …

Once the income tax was adopted, though, it became a lot easier to finance subsidies, handouts, and redistribution. … As the decades have passed, the Leviathan state in Washington has grown. And in the absence of genuine entitlement reform, it’s just a matter of time before the United States morphs into a bankrupt European-style welfare state.

And as government becomes bigger and bigger, diverting more and more resources from the productive sector of the economy, we can expect more stagnation and misery.

That’s why October 3 is an awful day in American history.

Posted under Commentary, Economics, government, History, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, October 4, 2013

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Wouldn’t it be luverly? 2

Little poster from

What if We Had a Government Shutdown and Nobody Noticed or Cared?

by Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute.

Posted under government, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 2, 2013

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It’s simple to balance the budget … 1

Daniel J. Mitchell of the libertarian Cato Institute talks sense about balancing the federal budget. No need, he says, to raise taxes. He even mentions in passing that income tax could be abolished  without the government being deprived of what it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. That’s the part we like best. But the whole argument is good and needs to be heard.

 

Video from PowerLine

Who’s buying the wine? 0

Daniel J. Mitchell writes at Townhall about American tax-payers paying the OECD to subvert America.

The $100 million that American taxpayers send to Paris every year to subsidize the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is – on a per-dollar basis – the most destructively wasteful part in the federal budget.

The video below will give you some evidence.

But the video also is a couple of years old, so it doesn’t even include some of the more recent and most outrageous examples of OECD perfidy.

The OECD has allied itself with the nutjobs from the so-called Occupy movement to push for bigger government and higher taxes.

The OECD, in an effort to promote redistributionism, has concocted absurdly misleading statistics claiming that there is more poverty in the US than in Greece, Hungary, Portugal, or Turkey.

The OECD is pushing a “Multilateral Convention” that is designed to become something akin to a World Tax Organization, with the power to persecute nations with free-market tax policy.

The OECD has endorsed Obama’s class-warfare agenda, publishing documents endorsing “higher marginal tax rates” so that the so-called rich “contribute their fair share.”

The OECD redistributes tax dollars to “corrupt and dictatorial regimes”.

Richard Rahn excoriates the statist swamp in his Washington Times column:

“The OECD was formed in 1960 to promote trade and investment among the developed countries. Over the years, it has morphed into an organization promoting higher taxes and the redistribution of income. … U.S. taxpayers are supporting high-salaried international bureaucrats who are advocating higher taxes on others, most notably U.S. taxpayers, but do not pay income taxes themselves.”

Dennis Kleinfeld wrote for IFC [International Finance Corporation] Review. He starts with a bit of history and explains how OECD bureaucrats live a good life at our expense:

“The OECD Secretary General, Deputy Secretaries, and heads of the Directorates are non-elected administrators and policy-makers, who live in Paris tax free (except for the Americans), travel first class, live first class, and whose every expense is paid for by the member states from taxes or money borrowed.

They keep a well-stocked wine-cellar at their headquarters too. Nice! But also paid for largely out of US taxes. (See the picture of it in the video.)

These are the guys who tell everyone else to pay their fair share of taxes and share in making sacrifices for the greater good of all. … I am quite convinced that the OECD functionaries have proceeded under the fixed ideological beliefs that global social happiness and economic prosperity can only be achieved when individuals subordinate their economic freedom and liberties to the interests of the collective, a utopian view of society. They are wrong. The state of the world proves otherwise.”

Removing American-financed subsidies from the OECD won’t necessarily put an end to this corrupt and statist bureaucracy. But at least American taxpayers won’t be violated to subsidize the pampered officials who drive the OECD’s biased agenda. And without America support, it is highly doubtful that the OECD would have any ability to bully nations into expanding the burden of government. That’s a win-win situation for America and the world.

Here’s his video:

Beggar nations 3

It’s later than he thinks.

This picture of President François Hollande of France comes from Townhall, illustrating an article by Daniel J. Mitchell, with the caption:

Compared to his foolishness on tax policy, Hollande is a genius when it comes to determining what time it is.

The author has been so bemused by watching European countries taking all the wrong steps to save themselves from bankruptcy, that he “endorsed the explicit socialist [Hollande] over the implicit socialist [Sarkozy] precisely because of a morbid desire to see a nation commit faster economic suicide.”

“Well,” he writes, “Monsieur Hollande isn’t disappointing me.”

He gives examples of the idiotic steps the new president is taking to ruin his country by raising taxes.

And here are some highlights from the article (which is worth reading in full):

While France is driving into a fiscal cul-de-sac, Italian politicians have constructed a very impressive maze of red tape, intervention, and regulation. …

But let’s not forget our Greek friends … the country that subsidizes pedophiles and requires stool samples from entrepreneurs applying to set up online companies.

Thanks to the International Monetary Fund, the rest of us are helping to subsidize these Greek moochers.

And speaking of the IMF, I never realized those overpaid bureaucrats (and they’re also exempt from tax!) are closet comedians. They must be a bunch of jokers, I’ve concluded, because they just released a report on problems in the eurozone without once mentioning excessive government spending or high tax burdens.

The tax-free IMF bureaucrats do claim that “Important actions have been taken,” but they’re talking about bailouts and easy money. …

Even though the problems in Europe are solely the result of bad policies by nations governments, the economic pyromaniacs at the IMF also say that “the crisis now calls for a stronger and more collective effort.”

By which they mean –

Let’s translate this into plain English: The IMF wants more money from American taxpayers (and other victimized producers elsewhere in the world) to subsidize the types of statist policies that are described above in places such as France, Italy, and Greece.

Greece, Spain, and yes, France and Italy too, and not omitting Ireland and Portugal, are like beggars intent on getting enough alms to keep themselves alive for one more day.

Like beggars, did we say? They are beggars. They have reduced themselves to beggary. The beggar-nations of Europe. To give them alms is to sponsor beggary.

The IMF and the World Bank – both of them institutions in the UN system – are the charity-workers who come to your doors, Americans,  rattling their collection boxes, to support the poor … what?

“Pedophiles? Early retirees? Muslim immigrants? Biannual vacation-takers? National health service patients?”

“Yes. Just put the coins in the box and don’t be judgmental!”