Recycle This!

Residents of Cleveland Ohio (Hello Drew Carey) are being introduced to a new type Big Brother. This time he's "green":
Cleveland residents, beware: Your recycling bins may be watching you. The city of Cleveland is introducing a $2.5 million Big Brother-like system next year to make sure residents are recycling.

Chips embedded in recycling carts will keep track of how often residents take the carts to the curb for recycling. If a bin hasn't been taken to the curb in a long time, city workers will go rummaging through the trash to find recyclables. And if workers find that over 10% of the trash is made up of recyclable materials, residents could face a $100 fine.

Of course, my immediate reaction was to fantasize about how many recyclables I could junk in the dumpster in protest at this ridiculous invasion of personal property rights.

Isn't trash after all your property? How I use, dispose or recycle my stuff I would think is my own business. You have a right to your trash. If trash didn't belong to someone I guess these people made art they can't sell:

No government has the right to tell anyone what they can do with stuff they own... so long as they don't harm anyone else.

I suppose that's exactly what those members of the Green police will argue - by not recycling people cause harm. But do they?

A New York Times article published in 2008 suggests that some forms of recycling cause more harm to the environment: "Recycling is supposed to be good for the environment. But if it’s not carried out properly, certain kinds of recycling — notably the dismantling of electronic circuit boards, which contain lead, zinc, copper and other metals — can cause environmental harm." Ok, but when Cleveland talks about curbside recycling they are no doubt not generally talking about electronics.

Discover though also published an article in 2009 describing how recycling can be harmful for the environment if sorting is done improperly. I can't tell you the number of times I've found it next to impossible to judge just which recycling bin to throw what into. Should I be fined for choosing to throw that piece of plastic away instead of causing more harm by possibly throwing into the wrong bin?

To make matters worse recyclers in Asia have faced recent criticism for their poor environmental practices. "Recycled products made from plastic from these enterprises are often of poor quality and harmful to health..."  Although these problems aren't generally reported here in North America, can we really be sure that recycling operations here aren't causing some similar harm?

We also know that with most curbside recycling, a second truck is used for collection. This means more pollution not less - and the CO2 global warming kind.

It hardly sounds like recycling is so clearly a better choice for the environment. And it seems perfectly reasonable for someone to take differing view that shouldn't automatically be considered a "green crime."

Apparently not so in Cleveland. Those poor Comrades are living in a Green version of 1984, where we all love Big Green Brother - or else!

h/t PowerBlog