Good Morning!

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Hello from a beautiful fall morning in Reykjavík (as seen from my balcony). Here to start your day is an interesting podcast from EconTalk about recycling, something I’ve been reading about a lot lately. The show’s guest, Mike Munger, discusses his views on recycling as a moral imperative, arguing it has become something akin to a religious ritual, which often ignores economic efficiency and even its environmental impact. For Munger’s article, from which this discussion stems, click here. One of his notable references is a news story from Raleigh, North Carolina, wherein the market for cullet (the material green glass becomes when recycled) became so small that the resources expended in recycling outgrew the value of the final product. Still…  

“Citizens voted to force the city to pick up the glass in those plastic bins, because they don’t like to throw the glass away.  The glass is picked up, trucked to the recycling facility, and either bagged or boxed and then shipped, in a different truck, to the landfill.  In effect, citizens are paying the city extra to throw away the glass, so that they can pretend it’s being recycled.”

The idea that recycling is the best alternative to traditional disposal has become so engrained in our collective unconscious that many seem blind to the externalities. I’m inclined to look further into more modernized solutions to landfills as well as inefficient recycling. 

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