Economics of Recycling

It was said to me that someone not recycling had no impact on me except in the general “i live on this planet” sort of way.

Logic dictates otherwise.

Although the econcomic impacts of not recycling are not immediately recognized, they nevertheless exsit. If we follow this through logically, we can illustrate this impact on a local scale.

When someone does not recycle, the extra trash finds its way into the city’s landfill. Landfills, by their very nature, can accomodate only a finite amount of waste. Once this amount is reached, the landfill is full and no more waste can be stored there. Once the landfill is full, the city must seek an alternative location. For this example, we will assume that the city selects a new landfill site. New landfills are rarely located closer to a city. This is especially true (and increases the economic impacts) if the city experiences growth during the active lifespan of the original landfill. If a suitable location is not found within the radius of the existing facility, the new landfill must be located farther away from the city. This increases the distance that new trash must travel in order to be stored in the new facility. Increased travel time directly results in a higher cost for the transportation of that waste. This cost, in addition to costs associated with procuring and preparing the new landfill facility, are passed on to the customers of the waste management company responsible for operating the landfill and trash-pickup services.

Hence, over the long-term, one person not recycling will increase the service cost of trash removal. If the lack of recycling continues, then this cycle will repeat until such time as it becomes cost-prohibitive to transport the waste to newer and more distant facilities.

Naturally, it takes a great deal of time to fill a landfill to its capacity, and consequently these economic impacts will not be immediately recognized.

If, however, everyone that uses the landfill actively recycles whatever they can, they can reduce the amount of trash going into a landfill, which will extend the service lifetime of that landfil.

If we look at the total cost of trash removal over the lifetime of an individual, the extended lifespan of the exisiting facility will result in a lower overall cost of having the trash removed.

This analysis assumes that the landfill in question would reach its capacity within the lifespan of those people currently utilizing it.

Something to think about before you throw that soda can away.

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