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If recycling is so great, why does it cost?

May 9, 2011

I’m confused.

Recycling is turning old stuff into new stuff instead of using raw materials.  Shouldn’t it be cheaper to recycle used stuff?

Saskatoon city council is considering a curbside recycling program which will cost at least $4 per month per household.  Even accounting for the savings from delaying (not eliminating … just delaying) a new landfill, curbside recycling costs at least $3 per month per household.

Government is responsible for maintaining order, safety and security.  I should be able to decide whether I am willing to pay any extra money to send waste to recycling and I shouldn’t have to subsidize the choice of anyone else.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Down permalink
    May 9, 2011 5:39 am

    If it costs money to recycle, it’s not really recycling, it’s a subsidy for more and accelerated waste.

    Recycling isn’t useful by virtue of calling it ‘recycling’ or even because we manage to reassemble something new from something old… The City is allowing people to feel good about themselves without even a modicum of benefit – the citizens accept the pandering because they want to pretend that they’re doing something good but they don’t want to work for it. It’s the worst of both worlds.

    I agree with your conclusion even if I disagree with the way that you come to the conclusion. The City’s ‘solution’ ought to be scrapped wholesale. If they’re going to fund a recycling program, they should do it properly. If they’re not going to do it properly, they should not do it half-way in an attempt to save face.

    • Michele permalink*
      May 9, 2011 11:43 am

      What would be the proper way to fund the recycling program?

    • Scott Down permalink
      May 9, 2011 12:46 pm

      I think what I meant to say was: If we decide that the concerns of waste and pollution are worth our collective attention, well, fine. I happen to disagree, but I yield to democracy. But in such a case then we should actually at least invest enough to fix the perceived problem. This might even cost more, not less, but at least it would tackle the issue rather than trying to make everyone happy.

      But I would be hard to convince that the City could run a proper recycling program at all… One that actually eliminated waste and saves land rather than placating citizens for ‘saving the environment’ – which, in this case, they’re simply not doing.

      In this case, City Council seems willing to accept the worst of all worlds: high costs to tax-payers, low (an possibly zero) social and environmental benefit – and perhaps even social and environmental harm!, and the excuse for people to set aside potentially legitimate concern without proper regard.

      But even if we accept the premise that ‘the environment’ requires our saving, I think a better approach would be to charge people for the amounts and kinds of waste they produce and letting the free-market sort out solutions. It is a defensible argument that (certain) wastes present challenges for future generations and that we have a collective responsibility to curtail it, it is not defensible to pretend that all attempts to do so are equal.

  2. May 9, 2011 2:55 pm

    An issue I have regarding this whole process is the replacement cost on the current landfill system. The consultant’s report built-in a replacement reserve cost that would be “saved” if we adopt this wholesale super-deluxe zero-waste recycling bonanza.

    Capital projects are funded by the taxpayer, not the “city”. While the city as a single entity doesn’t change, taxpayers do — people die, people start paying taxes, people move in and move out of the city. So, if the landfill is a capital expenditure, shouldn’t the replacement cost be borne not by current landfill users (i.e. individual taxpayers) but rather by those who will use the landfill in the future?

    Therefore, you’d think that the cost of the new landfill would be amortized over the 30-year life span of the new facility once the facility is built, rather than having current taxpayers fund it in a reserve fund today.

    That said, by using their logic of a non-negotiable four-point-whatever-dollars monthly fee, the savings from diverting all that waste will only amount to roughly 25%. (If costs go up, the savings will be even less as a percentage.)

    This is why the consultants resort to “triple-bottom-line accounting”, because the numbers drudged up from real-world accounting shows that this project is a net-loser.

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