Friday, August 29, 2014

The fallacy of recyling, or 'Don't feed the hippies'

Each Friday morning, I look out my front window and watch a very large, new, beautifully equipped recycling truck stop at my neighbor's driveway and pick up the dutifully sorted recycled materials in color coded bins: blue for aluminum, red for glass and green for paper.

And I shake my head.  The cost in doing this foolishness is just huge, if you do the relatively simple math.  Recycling in any community is nothing more than a camouflaged jobs program, costing the local community way more money than it claims is made by recycling.  These trucks are expensive, and the guys that man them are even more expensive.  Many times there are TWO guys on these trucks, but one guy can also get it done.  

I did the simple math.  Without getting into the weeds, I put together a spreadsheet to determine the costs of operating a fully equipped recycling truck and operating it over a typical month.  The cost to each community for each truck per day is approximately $719.82, considering the cost of the truck to buy, depreciate over 10 years, pay a union crew with retirement benefits, and administrate and garage, not to mention fuel up, plus other costs I have not even put into consideration.

To break even, an average recycle truck would have to pick up at each and every household a total of 256 aluminum cans, considering each can at market value of aluminum per pound is not quite a dollar per pound (97 cents per pound as of today),  or about 1/2 a penny per can, slightly more.  Each can weighs 2.7 grams, and a pound of cans would require around 166 cans. ( I would insert my Excel spreadsheet here for your verification of my numbers, but I don't know how. )

Simply stated, there is absolutely no way that each household puts out 256 aluminum cans per week for recycling.  Not even close. These trucks are roaring around everyone's neighborhood, spewing diesel exhaust into the environment, and in the end, they are losing money and wasting everyone's time and effort.  

Again, without getting into the weeds on the numbers, these nicely equipped and staffed recycling trucks are losing big money each month in their endeavors.  "But Fredd, but Fredd, they are also picking up glass and paper, you have to include that money made from recycling into your spreadsheet to be fair!!"

Be satisfied that I don't include those hippie-feeding activities. Recycling costs of glass and paper are not even solid technologies that can't even come marginally close to the costs of simply using available and cheap raw materials to manufacturer new glass and paper, rather than go through the expensive process of collecting, processing, cleaning and distributing recycled materials.  The math here only goes south on a cost basis, and will only subvert your liberal argument.   

At least the recycling of aluminum, unlike glass and paper, is close to an achievable and viable technology, but not quite.  I did not include in my spreadsheet above the costs involved in storing these cans, which are partially full of Coke, Red Bull, honey bees, wasps, flies, maggots, vomit (also known as backwash), and other impurities that I am way too modest to list.  Then the costs to clean all of the above and distill these cans into a marketable form are not calculated, either.

The whole point is that this recycling business is based purely on emotion and not on economics.  You feel good that you are helping the planet by ensuring that your cans, paper and glass are not going into land fills and befouling Mother Earth (Gaia).  

Truth be told, none of this stuff is toxic, and all came from the earth originally and when properly buried, will return to the earth from whence it came.  All we are doing in our recycling efforts are creating jobs for liberals.  You may notice that I mentioned that I watched each Friday as that recycling truck stopped at my neighbor's driveway, and not mine. I don't participate in this foolishness in any way, shape or form, at least not voluntarily.

My philosophy is solid: I say 'don't feed the hippies.'


Ed Bonderenka said...

But it's for the children!

Z said...

and the LOOKS I get when I ADMIT I don't recycle very faithfully...I mean, SOMETIMES, I put the plastic in the plastic bin here in the condos, but not if it's inconvenient :-)
Germany has bins on the end of each street practically detailed enough to have "striped stuff goes here" "pink stuff goes here".
I'm with you; this is REALLY "RUBBISH" (Hey, that's a good one, if I do say so myself!!??)

Gorges Smythe said...

I've always believed that recycling won't be truly popular until it's economically feasible.

Fredd said...

Ed: yeah, the ol' 'it's for the children' schtick gets 'em every time.

Page 1 in the Liberal Play Book: nobody can refuse to help the children, regardless of the stupidity of the program.

Fredd said...

Z: Rubbish, heh heh. I get it.

I got a better one: We as a nation need to 'can' this program. Get it? Can? You see, can also means to.... Oh, never mind.

Fredd said...

Gorges: you are right. If we can get the technology of recycling to the point that it makes money and therefore sense to do it, I'm right there pitching in.

Until then, it's just a stupid jobs program that sucks tax dollars for no good end.

Z said...

of course I got it...another good one :-)

Kid said...

Freed, I found this Condensed video of Penn and Teller's "Recycling is Bullshit". You're welcome. It was in 3 parts and difficult to get people to watch, but this is Beautiful.

Main point is when you can get bums to collect and bring in anything other than aluminium cans, then that material might be considered worthwhile. Until then? BS.
Our local collector charges extra to have Us recycle, so we Don't.

Kid said...

PS, If you can find the original 3 part series of Penn and Tellers Recycling is BS, it is a worthwhile watch because they make many more points than in this smaller video.

I should have pointed out the Language element as well but it IS Penn and Teller so....

Fredd said...

Kid: yeah, that Teller guy can cuss like a sailor. Or so I hear.

I watched the video, and of course it makes my point, with the exception of Penn's assertion that aluminum recycling makes sense.

It only makes sense if people take their cans directly to the aluminum recycling center themselves. Exactly like recylcing steel.

You never seen huge expensive diesel trucks cruising around neighborhood picking up scrap iron and steel. Recycling steel makes sense since everyone takes their scrap iron directly to the processing plant.

When you send these Rolls Royces around to neighborhoods to pick up 6 cans at each house, with two guys, a dispatcher, an accountant and a few managers to keep track of things, that's where the aluminum recycling starts to dip deeply into the red.

Kid said...

Good point Fredd. The cans have to be taken in or at least to central collection areas.

We throw ours away. For fun.

Fredd said...


Good for you. Keep it up.

jimbino said...

The 13th Amendment outlaws slavery, which includes forcing people to sort their garbage without compensation.