by Thomas A. Firey
simply in time for Earth Day this Sunday (April 22), officials in Harrisburg announced a brand new glass recycling program for metropolis residents.
Thomas A. Firey (PennLive file)
"here is simply an additional manner we're attempting to enforce environmentally pleasant programs so that it will make us a eco-friendly and revolutionary metropolis," Mayor Eric Papenfuse stated.
The problem is, glass recycling usually isn't environmentally pleasant, green or progressive.
reasonably it regularly increases fossil gas use and carbon emissions, even because it extracts funds from financially strapped native governments and residents.
originally glance, recycling would seem to be an easily respectable aspect: transforming family unit waste into valuable products in preference to landfilling it.
For some substances, similar to historic carpets and aluminum and different metals, this works smartly. That waste is effortless to compile, reduce to uncooked cloth, and use in new ways.
but some waste isn't so effortless--or environmentally sound--to recycle. Glass--certainly the green glass utilized in wine and beer bottles--is an illustration.
Glass is made from sand, which is neither infrequent nor tough to extract. The sand is heated, which is costly and energy-intensive, and combined with different chemicals to supply it quite a few residences, including colour.
If glass is in consequence tossed into a landfill, force slowly turns it right into a powder referred to as "cullet" it is plenty like the original sand. So there may be no longer an awful lot environmental threat from landfilling glass.
(And no, there isn't a shortage of house for landfills.)
Yet, to recycle glass, someone need to separate his bottles from different household waste, wash them out to stay away from mould and the attraction of pests, and put them in curbside recycling containers. Or, as is the case with Harrisburg's new glass recycling program, take them to assortment facilities.
really expert vans then haul the weighty bottles (carefully, they're glass in spite of everything) to recycling plant life where employees must separate them into distinctive hues. eventually, heavy equipment grinds the bottles into cullet to be heated and turned again into glass.
happily, much less energy is needed to warmth recycled cullet than to heat sand, therefore the environmental promise of glass recycling. although, that promise can be offset by means of all of the special handling of the recycled bottles.
The greatest difficulty with glass recycling is that when distinct shades of green glass are processed, the resulting cullet is rarely eco-friendly, however black.
And black glass has very little use.
subsequently, lots of the cullet ends up in landfills, even in any case of the sorting, cleansing, transporting and processing. in many circumstances, fewer materials would were used, with less environmental damage, if the glass had been tossed in the trash to start with.
fortunately, glass recycling does work well in some areas. In California wine nation, for instance, bottles can be reused, a lot like the returnable soda bottles of a technology ago.
but that "green" result is the influence of particular situations: lots of empty bottles in close proximity to lots of big wineries.
most likely Harrisburg has found the same set of cases for its glass recycling--but that appears not likely.
quite, the city hazards paying a few of its all-too-scarce tax revenue to a waste management company to procedure the bottles in a way which will in the end be extra environmentally detrimental than landfilling the ancient glass and making new glass from sand--and the city's recycled glass may nevertheless emerge as in a landfill anyway.
Papenfuse and the metropolis's other leaders should still be recommended for attempting to reduce the city's waste movement and environmental hurt.
besides the fact that children, recycling policy is tough. And what appears like a good idea regularly proves to be an environmentally dangerous -- and fiscally expensive -- one.
If metropolis leaders are looking to achieve their "eco-friendly" ambitions, they're going to ought to video display this application cautiously and continuously ask complicated questions of their recycling contractor to make certain the software is assembly its environmental purpose.
additionally, they ought to be willing to cancel the software if it doesn't prove to be an environmental advantage.
Such severe oversight of recycling courses is all-too-rare amongst American political leaders, who commonly see such classes as little greater than a chance for decent publicity.
If Harrisburg's leaders make such a major dedication, it might be most welcome on this Earth Day.
Thomas A. Firey is a senior fellow with the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. and a Harrisburg resident. His work looks frequently on PennLive Opinion.