Pretend recycling makes liberals feel better about themselves and their community

This is hardly a new story, but every so often, the liberal media shine a light on it: how some of the junk that is supposedly "recycled" is actually thrown in the trash.

In recent months, in fact, thousands of tons of material left curbside for recycling in dozens of American cities and towns – including several in Oregon – have gone to landfills.

Recycling is uneconomical, in part because small impurities in materials to be recycled can make such materials useless.

"There are some states and some markets where mixed paper is at a negative value," said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, which handles 10 million tons of recycling per year.

In the Pacific Northwest, Republic has diverted more than 2,000 tons of paper to landfills since the Chinese ban [on imported paper] came into effect, Mr. Keller said.  The company has been unable to move that material to a market "at any price or cost," he said. 

Theresa Byrne, who lives in Salem, Ore., said the city took too long to inform residents that most plastics and egg and milk cartons were now considered garbage.  "I was angry," she said.  "I believe in recycling."

That was Salem's mistake: informing residents that recycling wasn't happening.  Instead, the town should have done what Grant's Pass, Oregon did: tell residents they are still recycling but secretly put everything in a landfill like ordinary trash.

Other communities, like Grants Pass, Ore., home to about 37,000 people, are continuing to encourage their residents to recycle as usual, but the materials are winding up in landfills anyway.  Local waste managers said they were concerned that if they told residents to stop recycling, it could be hard to get them to start again.

"Eugene is a very green city and people love their recycling here," said Diane Peterson, a resident.

Exactly.  Recycling is a form of environmental virtue-signaling.  It makes liberals feel good.  The benefits of recycling are no longer economic; in fact, recycling is uneconomical.  The real benefit of recycling is psychological.  Liberals need it to feel good.  That is why it will continue, even in pretend form.

Check out this classic video where Penn and Teller persuade liberals to recycle their garbage in nine different bins:

Exit question:

1. Personal computers have "recycling bins" on their desktops.  Do you think a slick media campaign could persuade liberals of the environmental merits of disposing of documents and photos in separate electronic recycling bins?

Ed Straker is the senior writer at

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