Today is the day that we take our recyclables to the recycling center. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re not fans of recycling. That does not, however, mean we are diametrically opposed to it.
The conservative position on recycling is akin to the conservative position on almost everything else: if it’s necessary, truly useful, advances the safety of human beings or, quite frankly, if it pays without violating any moral norms, we are open to it. This list by no means exhausts the questions we might have about recycling or any other issue. It merely sets the table for discussion.
We are not, no matter what liberals may say about us, obstinately opposed to change. We only ask that the change is genuinely worthwhile or serves a greater purpose than what we were doing before. There’s no point being fools about it: if recycling is what we have to do to keep planet Earth habitable for us, then we should do it. We are not convinced, however, that it saves the planet all that much wear and tear. We are merely stating that if it can be reliably demonstrated that without recycling we, or our heirs, will die out due to our lack of proper stewardship, then we ought to recycle heavily.
The trouble is if that’s the case, the burden of proof must lie on the shoulders of those who think it necessary rather than on those of us don’t. It is fair to ask: why must anyone change their habits because someone else thinks it good? Give us something concrete and we’ll talk. Otherwise, individuals are well within their rights to wonder whether anything projected over a large scale is actually predictable. Claiming that without recycling we’ll be piled with trash or run over with landfills within a couple hundred years is nonsense on its own face. Scare tactics merely scare. How about a little rationality, a little perspective? If you’re right, the sanity of your cause will come through.
Why shouldn’t the individual ask whether the process will pay him? It seems that we give away paper, plastic, glass jars and so on, solely for someone else to benefit from it. If it pays, why can’t the donors get paid for it? The answer, essentially, is that these products don’t really pay anyone unless given to them. They must further be had in large quantities or they aren’t worth handling; the true value of those products are virtually nil. Yet people can and do get cold hard cash for their scrap iron, aluminum, and copper. Why? Because they hold a decent value even after their initial use. Even now we are willing to concede that if there is a greater necessity, something beyond monetary value which ought to be considered, then we should consider it. If we will die out by about 2025, or especially by next Tuesday, without recycling, then let’s do it and forget about who gets paid what. Otherwise, it’s simply scare tactics again.
Is recycling truly useful? Certainly for a few, but for the general society? You’re asking that a lot of people go to a significant effort to turn in garbage; again, where is the empirical proof or practical reason for it? We are not all that interested in how recyclables are used outside of that context. So there are playgrounds where shredded old tires can soften a kid’s fall: would there be no other ways of doing this, ways perhaps better, with new materials? We don’t know the answer. We’re only asking. But we are within our rights to expect a good answer.
As it stands now, our attitude is live and let live. If you want to recycle, then recycle. Only don’t force your preferences upon the rest of us without just cause. Your say so, no matter how heartfelt, is not good enough.