All the garbage that's fit to print

Recyclers and packagers counterattacked against the latest and probably the most significant media rebuke to recycling. A full battle-dress press conference July 25 in Washington, DC, was staged by the National Recycling Coalition in response to an article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine entitled, "Recycling is Garbage." Published June 30, the lengthy article by a Times staff reporter hammered at the theme that recycling is not economical.

And this from a newspaper that has previously been politically correct on environmental issues (see p. 52). Chip Andrews, Jr., president of the Glass Packaging Institute, acknowledges that the NRC press event would not have taken place except for the publication of the article. "Some people apparently think recycling will solve all sorts of problems, including maybe even homelessness. When that doesn't happen, they write articles like the one in the Times," he explains. Andrews admits that recycling can't be economical in areas where landfilling costs are $5/ton. But where costs are considerably higher, recycling is the way to go, he says. Whether glass increases its current 37% recycling rate will depend on factors like whether more communities add curbside pick-up for recycling. Another participant, W. Keith Atkins, chairman of the American Plastic Council's Packaging Committee, offered a somewhat different opinion. He says that recent press accounts are not attacking recycling successes, but instead they highlight over-ambitious recycling goals that have been set. "This is the inevitable result of treating recycling as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end," he points out. Atkins is director of solid waste management for Union Carbide Corp.

Companies in this article
More in Sustainability