Recycling does have benefits but they don’t always exceed the costs:
We can and should divide recycling into three different and distinct tyeps. There’s the recycling that makes a profit at standard market prices. We’ve been reycling gold on these grounds for many millennia now, old cars are melted down to make new ones and so on. That there’s a profit to made in doing this shows that value is added by doing it: the addition of more value meaning that we’re all getting richer. This is fine, in fact it’s just great.
Then there’s recycling that costs vastly more than is gained from having done it. You can recycle just about anything if you expend enough energy on it but no one would advise trying to turn used concrete back into Portland cement. Better by far to bake some more cement and put the rubble into the hole we’ve just dug.
There’s also the class of things where the pure market numbers don’t provide a profit but we’d like to recycle for other reasons. When there’s an externality perhaps. Cleaning up a radioative waste site might not be profitable for the metals extracted from it but it could still be something we want to do anyway.
The danger is that we get confused about those possible other reasons. And then end up deciding that we should pursue that second, highly detrimental, type of recycling. And that’s where the “recycle everything” movement is today. It’s become an almost religious observation, one that’s continent wide, that recycling stuff is a good thing to do in and of itself. But there’s no actual reason to do this. There’s no shortage of holes in the ground to put landfill into, only a shortage of licenced holes. There’s no general shortage of resources for us to make new stuff from. But we are told that we must recycle ever more material, well, just because we must recycle ever more material.
We should take a step back from this sort of emotional observance and recycle only that which makes a profit. But trying to be rational about even secular religions never does get us very far, does it?
Recycling is always portrayed as being better for the environment.
But that isn’t necessarily so.
The environmental impact of energy used in and pollution caused by recycling can be greater than dumping.
If it doesn’t stack up environmentally it probably costs more in financial terms too.
The adherents of the environmental religion preach recycling.
Reducing and reusing will almost always be better options and in many cases rubbishing could be too.