Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the UnitedStates

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Recycling is widely celebrated as an environmental success story. The accomplishments of the recycling movement can be seen in municipal practice, a thriving private recycling industry, and widespread public support and participation. In the United States, more people recycle than vote. But, as Samantha MacBride points out in this book, the goals of recycling—saving the earth (and trees), conserving resources, and greening the economy—are still far from being realized. The vast majority of solid wastes are still burned or buried. MacBride argues that, since the emergence of the recycling movement in 1970, manufacturers of products that end up in waste have successfully prevented the implementation of more onerous, yet far more effective, forms of sustainable waste policy. Recycling as we know it today generates the illusion of progress while allowing industry to maintain the status quo and place responsibility on consumers and local government. Most disturbingly, it does so with the strong support of environmental social movements that defend recycling even as they grapple with its shortcomings. MacBride offers a series of case studies in recycling that pose provocative questions about whether the current ways we deal with waste are really the best ways to bring about real sustainability and environmental justice. MacBride does not aim to debunk or discourage recycling but to help us think beyond recycling as it is today. In the name of ecological citizenship, she challenges us to consider larger problems of solid waste, the global range of environmental threats, and policy alternatives that go beyond curbside collection of cans, bottles, and paper.

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Editorial Reviews

Electronic Green Journal
MacBride provides an excellent historical overview of the U.S. recycling efforts, their limitations and the opportunities to improve recycling determinations in the future. This work is of great value to increasing our understanding of the current limitations of recycling efforts and changing policies and perceptions to make recycling more effective in the future.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262016001
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 12/30/2011
  • Series: Urban and Industrial Environments
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Samantha MacBride teaches at Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs and is a professional in local waste governance.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Acronyms and Abbreviations xi

Introduction 1

1 Rags and Bottles 23

2 Curbside Recycling Collection 49

3 Tonnage and Toxicity: The Nonissue of Nonhazardous Industrial Waste 87

4 Scale and Sufficiency: Zero Waste and the Quest for Environmental Justice 125

5 Extended Plastics Responsibility: Producers as Reluctant Stewards 173

Conclusion 217

Appendix I Summary of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Data on Solid-Waste Generation, Disposal, and Recycling in the United States 241

Appendix II Summary of Textile and Glass Disposal and Recycling in the United States and New York City 243

Appendix III Changes in Quantity and Composition of Municipal Solid Waste over Time 245

Appendix IV Fractions of Municipal Solid Waste Suitable for Reuse Using a Model of Repair Refurbishment, and Retailing 249

Appendix V Details on various Quantities of Different Plastics in Municipal Solid Waste 253

Appendix VI Fractions of Municipal Solid Waste Referred to in the Conclusion 257

Notes 259

References 263

Index 291

Series List 305

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