04 February 2010

Recycling is Bull S***

Treehugger: Recycling is Bull S***

Before anyone gets offended, I’m borrowing the title from Treehugger. And I agree.

*waits for gasps of shock to disappear*

Recycling is a huge waste of time. The fact that students spend a total of about 50 hours per week collecting and sorting recyclables on this campus: waste. Those recyclables have to be trucked somewhere, and Kent County, just like so many other municipalities all over the country, is responsible for finding someplace willing to buy the materials (usually China). They don’t make very much money at it. But the alternative is to dump them in a landfill, and landfills are even more expensive.

Why is this such a waste? What alternative could there possibly be, you ask? Well, not so very long ago in the past, there were refillable bottles. You drank a Coke, say, and then you gave the bottle back. And they washed it out and put more Coke in it. Whoa. Same with most other beverages, including alcohol.

But for this to be possible, there had to be places making beverages in the relatively near vicinity of the place where people were drinking them. Otherwise you had to transport a load of glass bottles over long distances, and, well, obviously glass doesn’t travel very well. Plus it’s heavy, and costs a lot to transport. Having a lot of little places each making soda or beer or alcohol meant lots of little companies each making their own product, often unique, often with local ingredients. There were hundreds and hundreds of brands of sodas, and probably thousands of microbreweries.

Now, Coke couldn’t have that, could they? Thousands of people doing their own thing, making unique diverse products? Bad for business. And Coke couldn’t afford to have lots of little factories all over the place- far more efficient, and far cheaper, to make Coke in one place and ship it all over the country. But not if you have to ship glass bottles back, and wash them, and refill them, and ship them out again. Thus was born the aluminum can. Lightweight and cheap to ship. Can’t be refilled. Never mind the fact that aluminum is ridiculously expensive to mine, that’s all done in Africa, and who cares if strip mining demolishes native populations and leaves millions of people in stark poverty. For Coke, it’s not only cheaper, but now they don’t have to deal with the end product: it’s all yours! Part of the bargain! But what in heavens name are you supposed to do with that aluminum can?

Well, for years, throw it in the trash. Then the environmental movement got all crazy, and you had to recycle it. Notice the key word here: YOU. YOU had to recycle it. YOU had to figure out what to do with it. Municipalities, which are not exactly money making organizations, had to figure out what to do with it. And they, and you, have to do this with every single consumer product.

But I say NO. NO, it is NOT my responsibility to figure out what to do with this plastic bag. I don’t want it. I don’t take them. What the hell are they doing in MY river? I don’t remember anyone ever asking companies to make plastic bags. I don’t remember anyone asking the companies to start producing aluminum cans. And seriously, did anyone go around asking companies to make the ridiculous tons of plastic s*** that plague waterways around the world? I certainly didn’t. And yet it’s supposed to be MY responsibility to deal with it? Are you kidding?

It is time, far past time, that we stop putting all the blame on ourselves. Oh yes, you as a consumer can vote with your wallet and all that. I’m just not sure why we have to continue to be defined as consumers at all, as if we don’t have any option other than to consume. What if we become producers? What if there are local microbreweries, who start taking bottles back again, and refilling them, and selling them? What if you buy products locally, so they don’t have to be shipped at all? What if you buy them from craftspeople, who don’t wrap them in tons of packaging? Or, if you’re still determined to keep using those multinational corporation products, why don’t you DEMAND, with your consumer dollars that are supposed to be all-powerful, that THEY take responsibility for the packaging of their products? That THEY deal with the millions of tons of plastic, of aluminum cans, of other useless packaging, instead of passing that cost on to you, the consumer (because the municipalities are collecting recycling using your tax money)? What if THEY take responsibility for the pollution they create, and not just the waste, but the air and water pollution? Why is it our problem? Did we ever ask for it?

Companies will undoubtedly say this makes their products more expensive, but I say bull S*** to that too. Coke spends billions of dollars on advertising. If their product was really all that great, they wouldn’t have to. They could use some of that money to solve the problem THEY’VE caused.

But, oh right, the global economy depends on shifting all the responsibility away from corporations, who have the legal rights of people, but none of the responsibilities, and putting it on “consumers.” And CLEARLY the global economy is more important than the environment, and our health, and our lives.

How very silly of me.

1 comment:

PSU Ecopol Project Team said...

You make some great points and we love your blog. We are a class from Portland State University and if you have time please check out our blog detailing the effects of overfishing. Please leave a comment if you stop by!