Recycling gets rapped

by Betsy Marston

Is recycling really a stupid idea driven by people too willing to believe that their minute actions can change a culture built on conspicuous consumption? Writing in the New York Times Magazine June 30, John Tierney answers "yes." In fact, he says, "Recycling is garbage." Citing studies by conservative think tanks such as the Cato Institute, Tierney concludes that landfills have plenty of room to sprawl and are generally benign, that markets for recyclables just aren't there, and that we plant more trees each year than we log for paper. What's almost worse, Tierney adds, is that recycling advocates goaded the government into enacting expensive and unnecessary modifications for packaging. Letters from environmental groups have poured into the Times, taxing Tierney for leaning heavily toward the printing and packaging industries. A 17-page rejoinder by the Environmental Defense Fund takes on Tierney point by point; some key objections: We may have plenty of trees, but we don't have enough intact forests. Recycling newspapers prevents surviving forests from turning into tree farms. Writers Richard Denison and John Ruston also point out that landfills are not "innocuous': One out of every five sites slated for cleanup under the nation's Superfund program for toxic wastes is some city's former dump.


The EDF response, Anti-Recycling Myths, is available by calling the group's Washington, D.C., office, 202/387-3500, or through e-mail to the World Wide Web at www.edf.org. The New York Times can be reached at 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036 (212/556-1234) or on the web at www.nytimes.com.


*Betsy Marston


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