Recycling: Another environmental scam goes bust

Anyone who has ever been to a recycling plant is invariably surprised at how dirty and nasty America's favorite green activity really is.  Trucks dump the material on a long conveyor belt, where a few dozen people pick through by hand what is supposed to be recyclable material but more and more often is just plain old dirty trash.

The recyclables used to be worth something more than bragging rights about liberal moral superiority.  Plastic bottles, newspapers, and cardboard were just a few of the favorites you could ship to China by the ton and make a few bucks along the way.  No more: Last year, the Chinese were happy to pay us $100 a ton for newsprint.  Today, $5 a ton is the going rate.

Even that is disappearing: too many people are putting too much bad stuff in their green bins.  Result: The pizza box stewing in a half-full can of cat food is now considered contaminated, and the Chinese do not want it at any price.

It doesn't take much to ruin a bin full of green dreams.  When I was an investigative reporter in San Diego, trash cans were often the first item of business when trying to get the low-down on a miscreant.  Many the late night I raided a full trash can as if it were a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Lots of great stories there.  If it was in their mailbox a few days ago, it's in the trash today.  They even open it for you.

But dumpster-diving – and more conventional recycling – are not for the faint of heart: one bag of cat litter can ruin a whole lot of trash, or in this case, garbage that is supposed to be worth something.  And recyclables with no value meet the same fate as their morally inferior equivalents: the newspapers and boxes and other stuff are hauled off to the landfill.

With the way newspapers are committing suicide, the newsprint problem just might take care of itself.  Wouldn't that be pretty if it were true?

Until that happens, the people who write for newspapers will continue living in this utopian world of small green footprints and bulging green containers – with very few stopping to ask, "Hey, are we making or spending money to collect that green garbage?"

For many, it does not make a difference as long as the Sierra Club is happy.

The people who actually collect the trash in all its forms do not have that luxury.  "There was a time a few years ago when it was cheaper to recycle.  It's just not the case anymore," Christopher Shorter, director of public works for the city of Washington, told the AFP news agency.  "It will be more and more expensive for us to recycle," he said.

Even the Los Angeles Times has figured it out: "Environmentally minded Californians love to recycle – but it's no longer doing any good," said the headline.  And this is coming from a paper whose official policy is not to publish any letters to the editor that question global warming because everyone knows that it is a scientific fact.

Just like recycling.

Colin Flaherty is the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Don't Make the Black Kids Angry. Seventy-five percent of the 5-star Amazon reviews insist that the book has nothing to do with trash.