William F. Shughart II’s recent Commentary, “Recycling makes greenies go gaga, but it’s a real burden for the rest of us” is replete with unfounded assumptions, gross generalizations and false statements that are dangerously misleading. We at the National Recycling Coalition know that recycling makes sound environmental policy, as well as sound business practice, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits within our local communities, across the country and throughout the globe. It is an undisputed truth that more Americans – and more manufacturers - recycle today than in past decades, and they do so for good reason.
If, in fact as Shughart asserts, “the costs associated with the process of recycling almost always outweigh the benefits” why do manufacturers around the world rely on recycled metal, paper, plastic and other commodities for meeting nearly 50% of their raw material needs? Here in the US, steelmakers rely on iron and steel scrap – processed from items as diverse as automobiles, household appliances demolished bridges and old machinery - to make roughly two-thirds of the steel produced in the country every year. One-third of the U.S. aluminum supply comes from soda cans, aluminum siding and other forms of aluminum scrap.
And paper? Shughart’s statement that “it’s more expensive and more resource-intensive to recycle old paper than to cut and pulp pine trees …” is patently false. If it were true why would the US paper industry rely on recovered fiber produced from such items as old newspapers, magazines, catalogs, office paper and used corrugated boxes for more than half of their supply need today? And yes, paper mills are beating down the door to buy quality scrap paper.
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