To Recycle or Not to Recycle



Kayla Farley

All our lives, most of us have been encouraged to reduce, recycle, and reuse; those three ‘R’s were equivalent to a scientific bible for me from elementary school up until now, now a college freshman.

Usually, we are all encouraged to reuse our plastic bottles, or at least toss them into a recycling facility, we are encouraged to turn off the lights or the water if we aren’t using them, or we are told, “don’t waste paper!” or “just use the other side!”. We were led to believe that if we did not adhere to these encouragements, we were wrecking the environment, or adding to the possibilities of “global warming,” a theory for which there is plenty of scientific research to support.


But a week or so ago, I was amazed; I read an article in my English class written by someone who actually had a different outlook on recycling. The author’s name is John Tierney, and his article, “The Reign of Recycling”, was published in the New York Times on October 3, 2015. I mention the date because a lot of opinions and outlooks on recycling have changed from last year until now, and I think with all the propaganda about “Going Green” or recycling, it is amazing how a person could actually have such a divergent outlook on recycling. Tierney actually thinks that recycling is a waste of time.


He argues that people have been recycling and trying to adapt to ways that are “better for the environment” for such a long time now, but not much has changed at all. Tierney claims, “[w]hile politicians set higher and higher goals, the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years”. He provides an example as he says that “[t]o offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business – or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.” It seems as if Tierney feels that people should have started caring about the environment decades ago, and there is no sense in starting now because it is a “waste of money,” and it seems that it is actually more expensive for people to recycle than it is not to. He claims that “researchers have calculated that there are indeed such benefits to recycling, but not in the way that many people imagine”.
So what do you think? After all you’ve learned and discovered about recycling in all your years of living, does this make you angry? Or do you agree? I find this topic to be extremely controversial because there are so many different outlooks swarming the universe about “Going Green”. This has become a part of everyday life for some people, and it would be extremely difficult to convince these people that they are wasting their time recycling.