Recycling Is Not Environmentally Friendly

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Daniel K. Benjamin

In the following viewpoint author Daniel K. Benjamin argues that recycling does not help conserve natural resources or protect the environment. He believes that recycling programs are an overreaction to myths the public has been fed about a so-called garbage crisis. Benjamin contends that no such crisis exists: In his opinion, there is enough space to hold all of America's garbage, landfills do not produce dangerous gases, and natural resources are not being depleted. Furthermore, he suggests that recycling may produce as much pollution as primary manufacturing and curbside recycling programs because more vehicles are required to transport the trash to and from recycling centers. He points out that landfills have more capacity for trash than ever before and that harmful gases emitted by landfills are not due to household waste but by illegally dumped industrial waste. Benjamin concludes there are enough resources to meet the world's demand for products and that recycling is an unnecessary activity that uses more resources than it saves.

Daniel K. Benjamin, "The Eight Myths of Recycling," American Enterprise, January/February, 2004. Reproduced with permission of The American Enterprise, a national magazine of Politics, Business, and Culture (

1Recycling merely changes the nature of pollution— sometimes decreasing it, and sometimes increasing

Benjamin is a professor at Clemson University and a senior fellow at PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center.


  1. What evidence does the author provide to argue that Americans are not squandering natural resources?
  2. How many trucks did the city of Los Angeles add to its fleet to handle the curbside recycling program, according to the author?
  3. According to Benjamin, what percent more does curbside recycling cost than throwing an item away?

The modern era of the recycling craze can be traced to 1987, when the garbage barge Mobro 4000had to spend two months touring the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico before it found a home for its load. The Environmental Defense Fund, the National Solid Waste Management Association (whose members were anxious to line up new customers for their expanding landfill capacity), the press, and finally the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], spun the story of a garbage crisis out of control. By 1995, the majority of Americans thought trash was our number one environmental prob-lem—with 77 percent reporting that increased recycling of household rubbish was the solution. Yet these claims and fears were based on errors and misinformation, which I have compiled into the Eight Great Myths of Recycling.

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