All recycling techniques consume energy for transportation and processing and some also use considerable amounts of water,
although recycling processes seldom amount to the level of resource use associated with raw materials processing.
There may also be drawbacks with the collection methods associated with recycling. Increasing collections of separated wastes
adds to vehicle movements and the production of carbon dioxide. This may be negated however by centralized facilities such as
some advanced material recovery facilities and mechanical biological treatment systems for the separation of mixed wastes.
Recycled materials also sometimes cost more financially than their non-recycled versions. This is not universal to every recycled
product, but it does occur in many cases.
For some materials, recycling is more expensive than landfill disposal unless externalities are considered. For
these products, there is an opportunity cost to recycling. Some argue that the financial costs of recycling some materials outweigh
the environmental benefits. Some skeptics also argue that the environmental benefits of recycling do not compensate for the extra
effort it may require.
According to an article in The New York Times by John Tierney, government mandated recycling wastes more resources than it
saves. Some highlights from the article:
- In cases where recycling truly does save resources, such as with large scraps of aluminum, this will be reflected in market
prices, and voluntary recycling will take place. Thus, there is no need for the government to mandate it.
- Each year the United States fills up less than 10 square miles of landfill space. Once full, much of that land gets turned into parks.
- Tree farmers plant more trees than they cut down.
- Government mandated recycling is more expensive than putting the garbage into landfills, which means that this recycling uses
up more resources than it saves.
- Some small towns with landfills are happy to import garbage from other cities and states because it provides jobs and tax
- Today's modern landfills are much cleaner and safer, and much less likely to leak and pollute, than the landfills of the past.
- Coastal cities can take advantage of horizontal landfills and thereby increase land mass, protect eroding shorelines, create jobs,
and expand commerce.
Recycling proponents will gladly discuss and quote the financial savings and lessened environmental impact of
recycling. What they quote, however is the "actual' cost of virgin products from harvesting the raw materials,
through the refinement process to the actual manufacturing of the product. Recycling materials skips all the
preliminary steps and merely "reclaims" the already claimed, harvested, mined, or grown materials.
In fact, since the materials would have to be acquired from their original source in either event, the differences in
virgin manufacturing vs. recycling are significant. You will find recycling data offered by many different
organizations. A quick search of the ACTUAL recycling industry will yield figures much different than those from
governmental agencies. The EPA conveniently disregards transportation, collection, sorting, and reprocessing
costs in their data. Strange. Of course that skews data in favor of that buearuocracy, along with the old-school
liberals responsible for Affirmative Action (so much a part of the recycling program), and other (so called) work
Below are some of the compiled TOTAL cost figures based on
current virgin TOTAL costs from the actual recycling industries