When I read the Jan. 31 editorial titled “Clean up a messy recycling system,” I generally agreed with the points you made, but I wish to offer one clarification and one additional observation.
You wrote that, “Summerville also cut back on its curbside recycling pickup in November.”
I would say cut back is an understatement; rather, it would be more accurate to say it has virtually eliminated recycling — the program is down to just paper and cardboard.
Officials love to explain that “it doesn’t pay to recycle” or “recycling is not financially profitable.”
But these people are missing the real savings. Lowcountry residents don’t recycle because they want to help some company to make nice profits. They recycle because they know glass is 100 percent reusable and that it is 100 percent never biodegradable. Most plastic will also occupy volume in a landfill forever.
Many of my friends and neighbors have commented on the increased volume in our garbage totes since our recycling program was so severely diminished. If it is taking up that much more room in our totes, logic would say it is also taking up that much additional space at the landfill.
If we are able to extend the life of a landfill by reducing what gets dumped into it, then we are saving far more money than the value of the paper, glass, or plastic. The reality is the more that is dumped, the faster the landfill reaches capacity — and then it really gets expensive.
In addition to the outrageous costs of finding land and actually building an EPA-approved landfill, there is always the conversation about the landfill’s location. Not just any vacant land will work — and then there is NIMBY, which can also produce long and costly legal battles.
The real savings by recycling as many materials as possible is not from the value of these materials, but from the savings of extending landfill use.