The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy are holding a Congressional Hearing on Wednesday on a draft bill entitled “The Increasing Manufacturing Competitive Through Improved Recycling Act of 2012.“ The draft has been prepared primarily at the request of Congressmen John Sullivan (R-OK) and has been worked on by various materials manufacturing organizations.
Unlike most government edicts and restrictions, recycling is a positive action. It is, indeed, for the greater good. To that fact, there is little disagreement.
Government in recent times has become the arbitrator of conduct. It tells us where we can smoke, how much soda we can drink and when not to use a mobile phone. The list of stupid, obtrusive and lack of commons sense edicts is endless. We have let government substitute its judgment for that of the individual. It continues to tighten the noose on almost every human endeavor.
However, in this case, recycling is the type of conduct the government should be encouraging and by its nature, an integral part of the materials recycling process.
Recycling aluminum cans, steel containers, newspapers, glass bottles, paper containers, plastics, electronic waste and other materials has a myriad of benefits:
- Saves energy
- Prevents environmental degradation
- Creates employment
- Reduces green house gases
- Reduces landfill use
The aluminum can is a perfect example and poster child for the benefits of recycling. The fundamental nature of aluminum means that it can recyclable over and over with no loss of quality. In fact, 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. This infinite recyclability of aluminum and high value of the recycled material means a beverage can, on average, goes from a recycling bin back to the store in about 60 days.
The impact is tremendous. The process of aluminum recycling saves 95 percent of the energy initially used to create the metal and emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gases associated with primary aluminum production. Let’s say that again. If it takes 100 energy units to refines, smelt and process a new aluminum ingot into can sheet ready to be rolled, the same result of creating a new can from recycled aluminum takes only 5 units of energy.
The end result is less energy used, lower cost of production, lower cost to the consumer, and less crud going to the landfill. While not as dramatic, other recycled materials provide similar benefits.
Recycling is more or less a local issue. Of course, the nosy and intrusive feds try to regulate the activity but it is the local municipalities and counties that pick up the stuff we dispose of (usually curbside) and set it on its way. There is a cost to collect the material and in recent years, unfortunately, a number of these local governments are cutting back on their recycling programs to trim their budgets. This is a worrisome trend if it continues.
The bill being considered in the House is quite modest. It deals with data and information collection from the Municipal Solid Waste Stream. (MSW) It is needed but will not have a major impact on recycling rates. However, it does give at least a signal that recycling is important and needs to be supported by all of us.