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Recycling is Selfish

Cell phone henge.

Recycling is selfish.

It is stealing from the future.

If you drink a bottle of water and throw the plastic bottle in the trash. Have you done a good thing or a bad thing. It’s hard to tell. Most people today would say you should have made an effort to recycle the bottle. I want to present a counter argument.

The recycling of a water bottle is often subsidized by deposits, tax breaks, government preferences, laws and the non accountable value of feeling green. Without these subsidies the product that the recycled bottle is turned into will almost certainly be more expensive or lower quality than one that was made from new materials.

Consider what happens on the other hand if the water bottle is sent to the landfill. The landfill will be a store of value for the time when because hydrocarbons are in shorter supply and technology has advanced it will make economic sense to reuse the materials. No subsidies will be necessary. But if there is no plastic in the landfill it won’t happen and people in the future will be worse off.

If we recycle something because the cost of doing so is more than repaid by the value we receive for recycling it then we are not stealing from the future. But if we need government subsidies, tax breaks or nanny state laws for recycling to make sense then we are stealing from the future.

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