Letter: The cost of responsibility | AspenTimes.com

Letter: The cost of responsibility

Every few years, someone has the brilliant revelation that recycling costs money. This is hardly a surprise. Most things cost a little more to do correctly and responsibly. Imagine how inexpensive things would be if we did away with all regulation and environmental ethics and how cheaply we could heat and cool our homes if the Koch brothers never had to reclaim another strip mine or build another toxic-waste impound. Think how affordably we could race around this nation with big engines if every fracking gashole in the world could pump profits from our earth without restrictions or environmental concerns. Of course, we wouldn’t have any clean water and would probably need gas masks to go outdoors. There are already stretches of our wide-open, wild West where breathing isn’t recommended.

Landfills are significant contributors to both groundwater contamination and greenhouse gases. Landfills have never been a reasonable “disposal” option. Landfills aren’t even very good temporary storage sites. Even the best, most highly engineered, lined landfills (which don’t exist within 100 miles of here) are only expected to last a little over 100 years or so before they start leaking. This means that our next few generations will have to deal with our wastes again in the relatively near future. It will be much more difficult to pull recoverable materials from the mysterious toxic-waste stews found in old landfills than to keep them out in the first place. This makes even the least efficient forms of recycling easily worthwhile compared with the burdens created for our grandchildren by burying everything.

Whining about recycling is nothing new among waste haulers, but I understand that one in particular has actually been talking entire neighborhoods into dropping recycling efforts. I wouldn’t have thought that to be remotely possible in such an enlightened region. This guy must be a silver-tongued devil and also have a bit of the Trump touch, which seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Let’s review Sustainability 101. Any experimental population, even given unlimited resources, will die as a result of wallowing in its own toxic wastes. I believe that we human beings are significantly smarter than white mice and fruit flies and will choose not to do this to ourselves. Living in a relatively closed system of limited resources, we really can’t afford to generate much, if any, waste over the long run. Recycling is an important tool in reducing wastes.

Resource recovery is a relatively new industry and still has many challenges to address. Anyone can sit back and criticize inefficiencies as an excuse for apathy. It takes a little more to keep working on problems and become part of the solution. It’s time to vote with your dollar and avoid supporting any business that doesn’t support recycling. And certainly avoid hiring a skeptic for recycling services. If your hauler doesn’t fully support recycling, your valuable recyclables are far more likely to “accidentally” end up in the landfill.

Jim Duke


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