I like to consider myself open minded in more than theory. So yesterday when I was flipping channels and ended up on pen and teller: bullsh%t and they were bashing the idea of recycling, I suppressed the urge to dismiss them without hearing them out.


I missed the beginning of the show but caught the gist of it as I watched, they believe the whole concept of recycling is a hoax and the country is being fooled.


According to the show, the government spends $8billion of our tax money on recycling programs because they are neither profitable – or, as an aside, necessary.


One of his points revolved around recycling paper…a renewable resource. He talked about all the trucks using gas needed to transport paper, the factories used to turn it to mulch, the de-inking and bleaching process that produce more waste…and to some degree I agree. More trucks and more chemicals are probably not the best way to go. And attempting to recoup the losses of a material that is both biodegradable AND renewable may not be the best use of resources. (I’m not sure what the repercussions of ink in the soil are…especially toxic orange detergent boxes that I KNOW are not naturally occurring dyes…but I’ll leave that alone.)


He went on to explain that we are not running out of landfill space; that a landfill 35 miles x 35 miles and 200 feet deep could sustain 1000 years worth of garbage. He stressed that the solution was not to build such a landfill…only that it takes up very little space – relatively speaking.


He then sang the joys of methane gas produced by decamping organics and how that can be channelled and used for fuel, and how after a dump is filled, it is landscaped to look beautiful.


And while all of these things may be true…and recycling paper may be the least of our worries…I do believe that we are a wasteful society. We wrap plastic in plastic and more plastic, seemingly because we can. In academia I find myself using reams of paper each semester. And the proliferation of plastic is appalling.


1000 years is a long time…but it isn’t forever. And creating change – changing ingrained habits – is a long and arduous process. Why wait until we have to change…until it is emergency…until we have no choice.


I don’t know enough about the recycling processes for glass or plastic to disagree with what pen and teller had to say. I can say that the time it takes for disposable diapers and water bottles to decompose is longer than I’ll be alive…and my nieces. And I know that Styrofoam from my to-go packages and egg cartons will be here even longer…and pretty as they may make said dump…I know I wouldn’t want to live there, and anyone with money won’t HAVE to live there.


So why not make changes now…if not recycling…how about the other two Rs the fear of limited landfill space produced…REDUCE and REUSE…they take less effort and do no harm.

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