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Reblogged:Recycled Appeasement Bites 'Big Oil'

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Quiz time.

The fallout from China's decision to stop accepting plastic for recycling from overseas has been:

If it were economical to do something besides landfilling these, there would be no need to force anyone to do it. (Image by Tanvi Sharma, via Unsplash, license.)
  • a. American governments admit that recycling currently makes no economic sense for plastics, and end plastics collection;
  • b. Environmentalists reconsider their advocacy of such programs in light of the time and money they waste;
  • c. The public belatedly recognizes that burying useless waste is sometimes a better option than recycling; or
  • d. The left doubles down on recycling by scapegoating producers.
Courtesy of NPR, which obviously feels safe reporting enough facts for a thinking person to see the unfairness of it all, we see that the answer is a big D.

Since Americans have had the idea that recycling is inherently good drummed into their skulls for at least two generations, I'll connect the dots from the story in an order appropriate to show what has happened.

Those of us old enough to remember when people didn't waste time sorting through trash and storing it like gold, will recall recycling bins popping up all over the place around the mid-nineties. This occurred, in part, because:
"The feeling was the plastics industry was under fire -- we got to do what it takes to take the heat off, because we want to continue to make plastic products," [Larry Thomas, the former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry] says.
Like any industry under fire, the oil companies used advertising, but do note (1) the source of the flames, and (2) the nature of the response:
"Presenting the possibilities of plastic!" one iconic ad blared, showing kids in bike helmets and plastic bags floating in the air.

"This advertising was motivated first and foremost by legislation and other initiatives that were being introduced in state legislatures and sometimes in Congress," Freeman says, "to ban or curb the use of plastics because of its performance in the waste stream."

At the same time, the industry launched a number of feel-good projects, telling the public to recycle plastic. It funded sorting machines, recycling centers, nonprofits, even expensive benches outside grocery stores made out of plastic bags.

Few of these projects actually turned much plastic into new things.

NPR tracked down almost a dozen projects the industry publicized starting in 1989...
The article doesn't mention the misplaced priorities of environmentalists, or that this legislation was largely prompted by ridiculous rumors to the effect that the United States was running out of landfill space (PDF). Many of us who remember that time may or may not recall that, but we will recall a big push from apparently every direction at once from around that time to recycle.

Part of that push, understandably -- but also wrongly and unfortunately -- came from plastics producers, aka "Big Oil." Plastics producers needed to say something, and insofar as they reminded the public of the many benefits plastics bring, they were absolutely right to do so.

Insofar as they promoted the wasteful practice of recycling, however, they were wrong. It is interesting to note what NPR admits about recycling plastics:
Here's the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can't be reused more than once or twice.

On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It's made from oil and gas, and it's almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh.
The article harps on the fact that the oil companies knew this then, and probably realize it now -- but chose to push recycling, anyway, possibly in hopes that technological advances would make it practical, but not being entirely on-the-level about the economics. The article vastly downplays the role of environmentalists in smearing the oil companies and improperly demanding the government start recycling programs.

And so, after a scheme pushed by left-wing activists and improperly passed into law by legislators failed, it's easy to get away with headlines like NPR's: "How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled."

Plastics vastly improve our lives: The oil companies frankly had bragging rights about their good work, and should have campaigned against the new improper, time-wasting, and money-wasting recycling laws. Instead, they half-heartedly defended themselves and half-compromised, promoting measures they knew wouldn't work and should have known were wrong.

And, based on what I see in this story and elsewhere, the oil companies are once again accepting unearned blame for producing plastics, getting behind an uneconomical form of recycling, and taking improper government coercion sitting down.

Spoiler alert: They got no moral credit for doing this the first time, and they won't get moral credit for doing this again.

It's up to "Big Oil" to end the sorry cycle perpetrated here by the left, of (1) casting unearned blame, (2) making unreasonable demands, (3) foisting improper laws on the American public (including the oil companies), (4) calling "Big Oil" on dishonesty (while avoiding blame), and (5) repeat ad nauseam.

Or, to put it differently, if you do anything that looks remotely like you agree with the left, they will recycle what you did into fresh grounds to order you to bow to their demands again later.

-- CAV


: Corrected three typos.

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On 9/14/2020 at 7:19 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

this legislation was largely prompted by ridiculous rumors to the effect that the United States was running out of landfill space (PDF). Many of us who remember that time may or may not recall that,

I can testify to remembering this very well.

And when you asked the brainwashing victim how it could be that we are running out of landfill space, they would react the same way they do today when you question the efficacy of cloth masks. You could ask them, “haven’t you ever left our town in a car, or flown in an airplane and seen for yourself just how absurd is the notion we will run out of landfill? 

“Shut the fuck up and recycle.”

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