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Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy

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<p>The earnest warnings of an impending "solid waste crisis" that permeated the 1980s provided the impetus for the widespread adoption of municipal recycling programs. Since that time America has witnessed a remarkable rise in public participation in recycling activities, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and commercial and office programs. Recently, however, a backlash against these programs has developed. A vocal group of "anti- recyclers" has appeared, arguing that recycling is not an economically efficient strategy for
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Overview

<p>The earnest warnings of an impending "solid waste crisis" that permeated the 1980s provided the impetus for the widespread adoption of municipal recycling programs. Since that time America has witnessed a remarkable rise in public participation in recycling activities, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and commercial and office programs. Recently, however, a backlash against these programs has developed. A vocal group of "anti- recyclers" has appeared, arguing that recycling is not an economically efficient strategy for addressing waste management problems.<p>In Why Do We Recycle? Frank Ackerman examines the arguments for and against recycling, focusing on the debate surrounding the use of economic mechanisms to determine the value of recycling. Based on previously unpublished research conducted by the Tellus Institute, , a nonprofit environmental research group in Boston, Massachusetts, Ackerman presents an alternative view of the theory of market incentives, challenging the notion that setting appropriate prices and allowing unfettered competition will result in the most efficient level of recycling. Among the topics he considers are: <ul> <li>externality issues-unit pricing for waste disposal, effluent taxes, virgin materials subsidies, advance disposal fees <li>the landfill crisis and disposal facility siting <li>container deposit ("bottle bill") legislation <li>environmental issues that fall outside of market theory <li>calculating costs and benefits of municipal recycling programs <li>life-cycle analysis and packaging policy-Germany's "Green Dot" packaging system and producer responsibility <li>the impacts of production in extractive and manufacturing industries <li>composting and organic waste management <li>economics of conservation, and material use and long-term sustainability </ul> Ackerman explains why purely economic approaches to recycling are incomplete and argues for a different kind of decisionmaking, one that addresses social issues, future as well as present resource needs, and non-economic values that cannot be translated into dollars and cents.<p>Backed by empirical data and replete with specific examples, the book offers valuable guidance for municipal planners, environmental managers, and policymakers responsible for establishing and implementing recycling programs. It is also an accessible introduction to the subject for faculty, students, and concerned citizens interested in the social, economic, and ethical underpinnings of recycling efforts.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ackerman's thoughtful, sure-to-be-controversial study lifts the debate over the merits of recycling to a new level. Well-run recycling programs frequently do not save money, he reports, and would do only slightly better even with the implementation of more market incentives. Nevertheless, he insists, critics of recycling minimize or ignore its widespread environmental benefits. In our throwaway consumerist society, he argues, recycling is a commitment to the greater good, a form of altruism vital to creating a sustainable economy predicated on greater reliance on renewable materials, waste prevention and limits to population and consumption growth. A research professor at the Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute, Ackerman presents often surprising findings regarding plastic packaging in landfills, bottle recycling programs and composting, such as the fact that polypropylene number-five plastic actually generates less waste than the more frequently recycled high-chemistry number-two plastic. He also provides a useful appraisal of Germany's "open dot" program, which requires manufacturers to recover and reuse packaging-a program adapted by several other European countries but virtually ignored in the U.S. Feb.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559635042
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 6.17 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Ackerman is research professor at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
 
Introduction
Chapter 1. Beyond the Trash Can
Chapter 2. Getting the Prices Wrong
Chapter 3. More Than the Market
Chapter 4. A Truck Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Chapter 5. Drink Boxes, Styrofoam, and PVC
Chapter 6. The Dot Heard around the World
Chapter 7. Bottle Bills, Litter, and the Cost of Convenience
Chapter 8. Organic Waste and the Virtue of Inaction
Chapter 9. The Hidden Utility
Chapter 10. Material Use and Sustainable Affluence
 
Bibliography
Index
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