Does recycling come down to dollars and cents?

On MPR’s website for discussion of issues, Insight Now, I admitted how lousy I am at recycling. It just seems to be a low priority for me.

caputo.jpg Michael Caputo | MPR News

Not that this is completely unusual. Hennepin County is looking at mandatory measures to improve recycling rates there. Other counties are worse (check out the last pages of the 2008 SCORE report). Minnesotans apparently recycle cans and bottles at a 35 percent rate, far below the 80 percent goal set by the state’s Pollution Control Agency.

So we asked the community at Insight Now just how people ought to be encouraged to be better recyclers. By government intervention? Neighborly peer pressure? I figured many would talk about the need to stir one’s environmental conscience.

Instead commenters said that we seem to have maxed out on what environmental peer pressure can do. Instead, we need to look at making the economic arguments stronger.

Mary Warner of Little Falls wrote that businesses have to be more involved in recycling:


“…(A)nd that’s only going to happen if the economics of the situation work. It’s either got to save them big bucks or make them big bucks.”

But when the recycling free market flounders, as it did in 2008 then business has far less incentive to get in the game.

Someone else in the discussion thread aimed more at the consumer, saying that if you recycle but don’t buy recycled goods, you are only doing half of your part. But some goods made from recycled products are more expensive. And then you are appealing to something more than what makes sense as a shopper.

The thought here must be, the more you buy, the more demand you create. And that will bring down prices.

Demand also seems to be the economic argument made by the Recycle More Minnesota program. This time, however, the organization wants you to add more to the recycling stream to boost employment. The program, a collaboration between the Recycling Association of Minnesota and the state Pollution Control Agency, says 20,000 jobs are supported by recycling.

You would think that might get a laggard like me to sort those bottles, cans and newspapers more.

Insight Now just posted a number of other perspectives on how to increase recycling in Minnesota. Have a look and join the conversation.

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