Ideas on economic recycling


By Bruce Rhodes


February 15, 1990


William Watson’s thought-provoking column “Recycling garbage: A tax by any other name” (The Post, Feb. 9), reveals the structural weaknesses in the pricing of tree-sourced products. While he fails to elaborate on his proposed solution of running recycling programs according to market principles, I like his idea and, as a waste-conscious office worker, offer this:


Build in recycling costs up front. Allow producers of glossy paper, lunch bags and other paper items to include in their cost to users a “recycling charge,” the proceeds of which would finance much-needed recycling plants, and de-inking facilities.


Make litter bugs pay. Sell magazines and newspapers with a “deposit:” of, say, $3 a copy, $2.50 of which is recoverable upon return of the publication to a recycling depot. The unrecovered 50 cents would pay for the justifiable administration cost of the program. Someone fool enough to leave Moneywise on the bus would thus enrich someone else quick enough to grab it.


Pre-empt garbage and recycling. Use a coffee mug instead of paper cups. Say no to retailers offering bags for small purchases. Save bond paper with one blank side as scratch paper. Photocopy on both sides of paper. Circulate one copy rather than copies for everyone. Cut the size of mailing lists. Reformat computer printouts to compress data. Such steps can shrink the “to-be-recycled” pile, and reduce the “taxing” task of sorting the items.


Until these measures are established, we and Mr. Watson can choose to recycle simply out of the goodness of our hearts, with the same spirit that prompts us to donate precious time and money to charitable causes.


Granted, this is a clouding of philanthropic and economic motivations. However, perhaps we ought not to complain too passionately about having to spend a few minutes each day in our air-conditioned offices sorting the paper vestiges of our throw-away society.