A recent article in the New York Times, The Reign of Recycling, seems to indicate that it is better to fill up our landfill with plastic because it is cheaper and also that recycling plastic has less than a 1% impact on our carbon footprint as Americans. Recycling paper and metal is where the real benefit is in reducing our carbon footprint and greenhouse gasses emissions. Paper and metal account for 90% of the greenhouse benefit from all recycling. The article indicates that recycling is similar to religion, “Religious rituals don’t need any practical justification”, and neither do our beliefs in recycling. We really need to understand the facts about recycling such as how much it costs, does the effort really make a difference to global warming, etc. Additional trucks on the roads and pollution from the recycling centers have a negative impact to the environment, as well. Don’t get me wrong; I have drunk the recycling Kool-Aid, but with city budget overruns and landfills turning into green space after they are closed, maybe we all should re-think the recycling doctrine?
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Suzanne Sowinski is the founder and director of sustainable building at Sowinski Sullivan Architects, PC. She received her master’s degree in sustainable design over ten years ago. As a registered architect, she believes that the practice of architecture and the teaching of sustainable design are equally important in the 21st century.
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