Recycling: Should it be Mandatory?


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Articles for and against mandatory recycling laws in the United States. To be used by students to write a persuasive essay defending a position.

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Recycling: Should it be Mandatory?

  1. 1. 1 Think twice before tossing that plastic bottle in the trash. If you live in Cleveland, it could cost you. Officials in that Ohio city recently decided to track residents' recycling habits using high-tech garbage cans. The bins are outfitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that monitor how much people recycle. Under the new policy, waste collection officials can search residents' trash if they suspect people are not recycling enough. If residents throw away too many recyclable items, they may be hit with a $100 fine. Supporters say the policy will benefit the environment by encouraging residents to recycle. They also say an increase in recycling will make money for Cleveland. The city currently pays about $30 per ton to haul trash to a landfill but earns $26 per ton to take it to a recycling center. Charging people who don't recycle enough could help defer landfill costs as well. The Pros Recycling: The Big Picture 7 2 4 Follow me to Page Pellentesque sed sem nec dui eleifend tristique. Recycling: Should it be mandatory? Summer 2013 Inside Trackin' trash: a Cleveland policy stirs up a dirty debate By Current Events, a Weekly Reader publication, October 4, 2010 The Cons Cities Increasingly Turn to 'Trash Police' to Enforce Recycling Laws
  2. 2. 2 FOR Recycling 1 Does it make sense to recycle? The short answer is: Yes. True, some critics wonder whether mandatory programs are a net benefit, since they can require more trucks consuming energy and belching carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “You don’t want a large truck carrying around just a few bottles,” concedes Matthew Hale, director of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste. But, he notes, most cities are getting better at reducing the environmental costs of recycling. (They’re also working to reduce the economic costs. Many recycling programs still cost more to run than they bring in when they sell the recyclable materials back to manufacturers.) Consider the true cost of a product over its entire life—from harvesting the raw Recycling: The Big Picture By Tom Zeller Jr. Published by National Geographic 2 materials to creating, consuming, and disposing of it—and the scale tips dramatically in recycling’s favor. Every shrink-wrapped toy or tool or medical device we buy bears the stamp of its energy- intensive history: mountains of ore that have been mined (bauxite, say, for aluminum cans), coal plants and oil refineries, railcars, assembly lines. A product’s true cost includes greenhouse gases emitted in its creation as well as use, and pollutants that cause acid rain, smog, and fouled waterways. Recycling—substituting scrap for virgin materials—not only conserves natural esources and reduces the amount of waste that must be burned or buried, it also reduces pollution and the demand for energy. “You get tremendous Btu savings,” Hale says. In an international study published last year by the Waste & Resources Action
  3. 3. 3 Programme, a British group, researchers compared more than 180 municipal waste management systems. Recycling proved better for the environment than burying or burning waste in 83 percent of the cases. It makes sense to reuse products, of course, and to reduce consumption altogether, as well as to improve initial product design. But given the rising mounds of waste worldwide, it also makes sense to recycle. What Gets Recycled in the U.S. It depends on the markets. Whether or not a particular material is recycled depends on a number of factors, but the most fundamental question is this: Is there a market for it? Markets for some materials, like car batteries, are highly developed and efficient—not least because strict regulations govern their disposal—and a mature recycling infrastructure has grown up as a result. About 90 percent of all lead-acid batteries are recycled, according to the EPA. Steel recycling, too, has been around for decades, while formalized recycling of yard trimmings has not. Despite the explosive growth of plastics— particularly for use in beverage containers— that industry has been slow to develop recycling infrastructure, with most plastic still going to incinerators or landfills. Excess Packaging Taking Charge of Discards Higher hygiene standards, smaller households, intense brand marketing, and the rise of ready-made meals have all contributed to an increase in packaging waste, but international trade may be the biggest factor. Even simple items like bottles of water now routinely crisscross the globe, meaning that thirst for a few swallows of “product” can generate not just plastic bottles, but also a large amount of other packaging debris—from wrapping film to bin liners to shipping crates. So far, Europe has led the world in recycling packaging materials—principally through the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive of 1994. The EU directive calls for manufacturers, retailers, and others in the product chain to share the recycling burden. With the exception of hazardous wastes, the United States has been slower to embrace the concept of “extended producer responsibility,” as the idea is known, according to Bill Sheehan, director of the Product Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Athens, Georgia. Some municipalities, however, are starting to demand that businesses help cover the costs of recycling. “Otherwise,” Sheehan says, we are “just stimulating the production of more stuff.” ★ Continued from page 2
  4. 4. 4 Beware the green police. They don't carry guns and there's no police academy to train them, but if you don't recycle your trash properly, they can walk up your driveway and give you a $100 ticket. They know what's in your trash, they know what you eat, they know how often you bring your recycles to the curb -- and they may be coming to your town soon. That is, if they're not already there. In a growing number of cities across the U.S., local governments are placing computer chips in recycling bins to collect data on refuse disposal, and then fining residents who don't participate in recycling efforts and forcing others into educational programs meant to instill respect for the environment. From Charlotte, N.C., to Cleveland, Ohio, from Boise, Idaho, to Flint, Mich., the green police are spreading out. And that alarms some privacy advocates who are asking: Should local governments have the right to monitor how you divide your paper cups from your plastic forks? Is that really the role of government? In Dayton, Ohio, chips placed in recycle bins transmit information to garbage trucks to keep track of whether residents are recycling -- a program that incensed Arizona Sen. John McCain, who pointed out that the city was awarded half a million dollars in stimulus money for it. Against Recycling Lack of Uniformity There is currently no Federal recycling law or mandate in the United States. Individual states and cities have paased their own ordinances and laws governing recycling. Some laws cover all business and residential establishments, while other states have recycling laws only affecting larger businesses. What is regulated? Depending on the state or city there are varying degrees of regulation for recycling. Some cites like San Francisco require residents to have separate bins in blue, green and black color meant for placing recyclable materials, composts and trash respectively. Other communities allow citizens to place all recyclable materials in a single receptacle. About Recycling Laws Cities Increasingly Turn to 'Trash Police' to Enforce Recycling Laws By John Brandon / How Green /Published September 08, 2010
  5. 5. 5 Harry Lewis, a computer science professor at Harvard University and a noted privacy expert, cried foul about the "spy chips," which are already in use in several cities and are often funded by government stimulus programs. He noted that cattle farmers use the same chips to tell if Betsy the Cow has generated her milk quota for the day. "It's treating people like cattle!" Lewis cried. Are people "supposed to produce recyclable waste, rather than certain quantities of milk"? What, he asked, happens if you don't generate enough? But there's a clear upside to the technology, said Michael Kanellos, editor in chief of GreenTech Media. "By tagging bins, haulers can weigh garbage, and weighing brings accountability. Consumers that diligently recycle will likely become eligible for rebates in some jurisdictions," he wrote recently. "Conversely, those who throw away excessive amounts of trash may face steeper tariffs in the future ... recycling, meanwhile, will go from being something that gives the consumer peace of mind to a way to reduce household bills." Best and worse case scenarios Dayton City Manager Thomas Ritchie said the city is using the chips to aid marketing campaigns, not to punish uncooperative citizens. "The data will be used to identify which residents participate in the recycling program, at what rate do they participate and the average weight of each participant’s recycling," he said. Charlotte, N.C., also uses trash tags, and it gathers similar information. City spokeswoman Charita Curtis said the city uses the data from the tags -- low-power radio frequency IDs (RFIDs) -- to find which areas aren't recycling as often and to start education initiatives there. The data is not shared outside of the city, she stressed, and it's not used to track down specific residents. The RFID program is also voluntary. “We can do targeted recycling education for areas with low participation, providing information on how to recycle, what can be recycled, the importance of recycling to encourage more recycling participation,” Curtis said. “Some residents may not participate simply because they don't know how to and we'd provide that education in hopes that they start recycling or recycle more.” But there's no volunteering in Cleveland, where the trash police can fine you $100 for not recycling. Cleveland will run reports on who fails to recycle consistently, and then it will send out the green cops, waste collection commissioner Ronnie Owens told ABC News. In late August, Cleveland's city council voted to roll out the tags to 25,000 residents, and it may extend the program to the entire city. It costs $30 per ton to haul away trash, but the city gets paid $26 per ton to recycle it. The program should generate about $170,000 annually in revenue for the city, the Washington Times reported. But the new equipment and bins cost $2.5 million, so it will take about 15 years to recoup the costs of deploying the technology. Cleveland officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information, but reports indicate that officials will know when you bring your trash to the curb -- and may go through your trash to ensure you're recycling properly. Continued from page 4
  6. 6. 6 Right to trash privacy Privacy experts, meanwhile, are up in arms about how these chips are being used to collect data. Lewis said Cleveland residents need to ask whether sacrificing their privacy -- having the government snoop through their trash -- is worth the environmental benefit. If not, he said, they should start a referendum to overthrow the ruling. Part of the issue, he said, is that the system is easy to fool: A neighbor, he said, might dump your recycling into his bin to avoid fines. The trash police could unfairly give the worst citizens a pass, Lewis added. He warned that those generating the most waste by using bottled water instead of tap water (plastic water bottles are a major source of trash) could earn credits for recycling all those wasteful bottles -- a reward for a poor choice, in other words. Mari Frank, a privacy expert and attorney, questioned the openness of the data. "It clearly looks like the reason for the RFID is to collect money, but the privacy issues are paramount," she said. "I believe these RFIDs are using technology to violate our Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure," she said. "The community should have the right to informed consent." What comes next? Lewis says the solution lies in improving education and awareness, not punishment. He said economic incentives work for recycling -- getting money back for aluminum cans and newspapers is a proven tactic. Frank was skeptical about the future potential exploitation of the RFID trash collection data, and questioned whether the next step might be to attach a GPS receiver to bins to see where residents put them and how they are used. Lewis wondered whether a city might use trash collection data for other, more invasive purposes. "If the government wanted to know our drinking habits by neighborhood or household -- purely for 'public health reasons,' of course -- it could mandate RFIDs on liquor bottles and reprogram the scanners to collect data on where the most vodka is being consumed," he said. "And it's not just the government either. Suppose a major distiller went to your town and offered to pay to collect data about who was throwing out which kinds of bottles. They might be prepared to chip the bottles without being told they had to -- and your town might be able to use the new revenue source to hold down its tax rate." ★ Continued from page 5
  7. 7. 7 Continued from page 1 2 Other people, however, say the new policy stinks. They point out that searching residents' garbage cans is an invasion of privacy. They say officials have no right to search people's trash without permission. Opponents say recycling should be a personal choice, not a law. Should city officials monitor residents' recycling habits? Current Events student reporters Devon Robinson and Tanner Rattray each threw out a side. DIG IN! Tracking residents' recycling habits is a great idea. That will inspire the people of Cleveland to recycle. The use of RFID tags and possibly fining residents who don't recycle will cause people to think twice about recycling. Debbie Pomfret, a teacher in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., agrees. "Tracking residents is a good thing because we are saving our environment from excess emissions and overcrowded landfills," she says. If we don't begin taking drastic measures, such as tracking residents' recycling habits and fining residents who don't recycle, our entire world will be in peril. The less we recycle, the quicker we fill landfills and the harder it is to find places to bury garbage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some cities and states bum garbage, which is bad for air quality. Cities may also pay huge fees to haul their trash to other locations. With the money it earns from its new recycling policy, Cleveland can begin eco-friendly projects, such as a clean-air tree-planting initiative, at local schools and community centers. Those projects can drastically improve the environment, and people will see the benefits of recycling. BACK OFF! Would you like it if officials knew what you threw away? or if you were lined if you didn't recycle? Don't get me wrong; I am The Reasoning Behind Recycling: The composts produced by the mandatory recycling programs is used in organic soil and sold for local farms and vineyards. At each home recycling food materials into compost can be used for gardens. Plastic bags and other products that cannot be destroyed are harmful to human beings, animals, birds and fishes. Recycling plastics not only creates new products but also keep them away from land fillings and thereby prevent injuring the animals and other living beings. 1 2 Recycling steel creates a new product, besides decreasing the demand for new mining of iron ore and thereby a natural resource is saved. 3
  8. 8. 8 3 all about recycling, but this is just too far. Officials have absolutely no right to know what I get rid of or how often I get rid of it. It is an invasion of privacy; Recycling is a good thing, but it should not, under any circumstances, become a law. Who knows? Smaller families may not need to recycle as often as others. They may not even use recyclable materials at all! Recycling should be a choice. Is it the right choice to recycle? Of course[ But it is a little extreme to make it a law. Jacob Boehlke, a sixth grader from Mequon, Wis., agrees. "People don't need to know how often I recycle. That's up to me. Whatever happened to my privacy rights?" he says. Although recycling is a wonderful thing, how often a person recycles should not be monitored. Possibly getting fined for not recycling crosses the line. I agree with conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, who describes the high-tech garbage cans as nosy trash cans. "Yeah. It stinks," she writes. "And taxpayers don't need any high- falutin' technology to detect it." Get Talking Ask: Why might officials want to monitor residents' recycling habits? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of tracking how much people recycle? Notes Behind the News * In 2007, Cleveland launched a pilot program for 15,000 households to test radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on recycling bins. In August, city officials voted to extend the program to 25,000 households. Officials plan to expand the policy to 25,000 additional households each year. 4 * The newest batch of RFID tags and bins cost the city an estimated $2.5 million. Despite the hefty price tag, Cleveland's waste collection commissioner, Ronnie Owens, says the benefits of the policy outweigh the costs. He hopes the program will encourage residents to recycle. "Instead of throwing everything away, take one extra step and put it in a different container," he says. In 2009, Cleveland sent about 220,000 tons of trash to landfills and collected only 5,800 tons of recyclable materials. * Some people say it is illegal for waste collection officials to look through people's trash. Opponents say the new policy violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects individuals against "unreasonable searches and seizures" * Cleveland is one of many cities that use RFID "tags to monitor how much people recycle. Others include Charlotte, N.C.; Boise, Idaho; and Alexandria, Va. Some cities, such as New York and San Francisco, don't use high-tech monitoring systems, but they do fine residents who violate recycling laws. Other cities, such as Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston, use an incentive program that rewards people for recycling. Those cities participate in a program known as RecycleBank, in which people are given points based on how much they recycle. Those points then translate into coupons to use at local stores. ★ (Continued)
  9. 9. Should governments have the power to make recycling mandatory for their residents? Is it against people’s right to privacy to have RFID tags in their trash or to have “green police” to search through their trash in order to enforce laws? Or is this an acceptable way to help save the environment? Explain your answer. The Big Question [Issue] :: [Date] Directions 1. Establish a position: Decide what your opinion is. Are you for or against mandatory recycling? 2. Create a thesis statement: Make a claim and include several key facts to support your claim. 3. Identify Supporting Evidence: What evidence supports your claim? Use specific evidence and cite where you found it. 4. Consider alternatives: What is the counter argument? How will you defend against an opposing viewpoint? 5. Include a Conclusion: Wrap-up your argument. Restate your claim and summarize briefly any important ideas. Ask readers to take action. 6. Revise and Edit: Does your essay follow guidelines given? Did you check the rubric?