Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Seeing Through Glass, Darkly
How are we ever going to really “go green” here in the US without an integrated approach to conservation and the environment? A case in point: last year it was possible in Independence to recycle glass containers, either by paying the trash hauler or by taking it to a recycling center. Today you can do neither. Why? The official explanation is that is no longer “economically viable” to recycle glass, since its major ingredient—sand—is so readily and inexpensively available.
I think of that explanation with distress every time I now throw away glass after several decades of trying faithfully to “reduce, re-use, and recycle.” It seems so obviously short-sighted to consider only the cost of glass manufacture when determining “economic viability.” What about the cost of hauling the stuff to a landfill, maintaining the landfill, and creating new landfills? Oh, that.
Well, if you throw in all THAT expense just maybe it might be a viable option. But industry doesn’t look much beyond the bottom dollar for their investors, and government doesn’t look much beyond re-election by the taxpayers, and neither looks much beyond the press of immediate issues, so who cares all that much about a few tons of glass bottles?
Years from now, when people are mining our landfills to reclaim the treasured resources we’ve squandered, what will they think of us? Surely seeing all our discards, not the least of which will be glass, they’ll view us as fools and wastrels.