Americans Recycle, Pat Themselves on the Back

Americans have gotten better at recycling, the EPA reported on Monday. Since 2005:

•    Container and packaging recycling increased to 40 percent;
•    Nearly 62 percent of yard waste was composted; and
•    About 42 million tons of paper were recycled—a 50 percent recycling rate.


But there’s something almost frenetic about the self-congratulatory tone of the press release. This quote pretty much sums it up:

“’President Bush and EPA are transforming our throw-away culture into a recycling culture,’ said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.”

If he does say so himself.

For sure, the U.S. has gotten better at recycling, and there’s reason to celebrate that victory. But this BBC article from last year about recycling around the world puts the American waste ethic in context.

We may be getting better, but it’s safe to say that we are nowhere near matching Germany’s recycling zeal.


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I wish I could get excited about this, but I can't. The composting is good, but as far as recycling goes, it takes more energy to collect, transport, and recycle materials than it would to create new ones, even from paper. The only exception, as far as I know, is aluminum.

Ideally, hemp would be used for an awful lot of paper and fiber products. If only the government would support it!

Maybe it will take more energy if the plastics, etc. are not collected efficiently... But either way, it keeps that much garbage out of the landfill.

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