Fact: Recycling is a manufacturing process, and therefore it too has environmental impact. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment says that it is "not clear whether secondary manufacturing [i.e., recycling] produces less pollution per ton of material processed than primary manufacturing." Recycling merely changes the nature of pollution—sometimes decreasing it, and sometimes increasing it.
This effect is particularly apparent in the case of curbside recycling, which is mandated or strongly encouraged by governments in many communities around the country. Curbside recycling requires that more trucks be used to collect the same amount of waste materials. Instead of one truck picking up 40 pounds of garbage, one will pick up four pounds of recyclables and a second will collect 36 pounds of rubbish.
Los Angeles has estimated that due to curbside recycling, its fleet of trucks is twice as large as it otherwise would be—800 vs. 400 trucks. This means more iron ore and coal mining, more steel and rubber
A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that recycled paper processing creates higher levels of toxic substances than virgin paper processing.
manufacturing, more petroleum extracted and refined for fuel—and of course all that extra air pollution in the Los Angeles basin as the 400 added trucks cruise the streets.
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