Friday, December 10, 2010

The Unnecessary and Absurd Issue of "Recycling"

I want to point out an excellent post that was linked inside another post on the same topic by Amit Ghate at Thrutch.  He has a fantastic insight regarding the concept of "recycling." Ghate writes:
In fact, in a free society one wouldn’t distinguish recycling from other kinds of for-profit exchanges. That is, just as today when you re-sell your car or your house, you don’t think of it as “recycling”, so too in a free market you wouldn’t distinguish returning bottles or newsprint for credit from other types of trade – provided that these actions were taken because it was in your own economic interest, not because the government or society was compelling or haranguing you in to doing so.
In other words, in a truly free society the issue of recycling would disappear because deciding whether it is best to re-use an item represents just another allocation of resources that the free market routinely (and silently) takes care of in its normal course.
I highly recommend reading his entire post. 


Mike said...

my problem with recycling is that it is often tied to an environmental agenda e.g. starbucks recyclable cups to save trees in the amazon, plastic bags which fill up landfills etc.... always for the environment itself and not for any economic benefit otherwise.

Doug Reich said...


Tying it to the their agenda is the only way the concept can make sense.

As Ghate points out, in a free market, the concept of recycling is unnecessary. My example: you wear your clothes many times before throwing them out. We wouldn't say you are "recycling" your clothes. You are simply making a decision based on a cost benefit analysis, as you do with virtually every decision in your life. Does it make sense to throw away a pair of jeans after you have used them once? For most, it does not.

(Further, if all property were privately owned, the market imposes a real cost on these decisions and incents behavior which tends to make optimal use of resources. If something is more expensive to "recycle" than throw away, the market is telling you that it takes more resources to recycle than throw away, i.e., the government is forcing you to waste.)

The only time we even use this concept of recycling is when the government forces you or goads you into doing so as in "you really shouldn't throw out those dirty should recycle them..."