Greedy Blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2003



 
Keeping in the spirit of the DT, I think Gretchen Thomas' heart is in the right place, but some of her facts are not.
...the next time your McDonald's bag rips open because it was made from recycled paper and your Big Mac falls to the ground or your H.E.B. bag isn't strong enough to hold all of your groceries because it's made from recycled plastic...

While I agree that the trees aren't disappearing, I disagree on the quality of recycled goods. The data is inconclusive about the relative quality of recycled goods. Rather than blaming the recycling for broken bags, perhaps McDonald's and HEB should get the blame for buying low quality recycled bags. I'm sure these companies buy the cheapest bags they can, and always have. Assuming the cheapest recycled bag is crappier than the cheapest virgin bag, I am skeptical that similarly priced recycled and virgin bags differ much in quality.
In short, if HEB would still spend $0.01/bag like they did when they bought virgin bags instead of $0.005/bag on the cheapest recycled bags, Thomas wouldn't be complaining since $0.01 recycled bags don't rip either or may even be stronger (numbers completely fictionalized to illustrate point). The bag doesn't break because it's made from recycled plastic, it breaks because it's made from cheap recycled plastic.

Also, I'm no environmentalist, but I advocate recycling. The best reason is the alternative -- given a choice between reusing resources or throwing them away, why not reuse? This is the reason people don't throw away their bath towel or bedsheets every morning. I don't care much that this is good for the environment, but I do care if cost savings allows HEB to lower the price of grapes 75% (see a few posts down).
Personally, I don't care if by bags are brown instead of white. I like white computer paper, but you can bleach recycled paper. Basically, you can get almost anything recycled equal in every respect to virgin if you spend enough money. Often, that spending is still less than the costs of fresh raw materials.
Most of all, I think that Mfg companies show the benefits. Often I've seen a company start to recycle something (water, energy, chemicals) internally, which dramatically reduces costs without compromising quality.
I recall a specific 3M presentation where they used their cyanide water for something else (this was like 7 years ago), so they didn't have to pay to have it hauled off as waste any more. Not only did this save the disposal costs, but it saved costs on whatever they were using pre-cyanide that they didn't have to buy any more.
From my design classes, recycling energy is often the only way to make a plant viable.

On a side note, I'm begun recycling my aluminum cans. Well, not personally, but I put them in the receptical next to my dumpster that a bum marked "cans".

Full disclosure: I once worked for the EPA and have an emphasis in environmental engineering.

Posted by Gel 2:30 PM Post a Comment

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