The Economics of Recycling

March 27, 1998 • Volume 8, Issue 12
Is it worth the effort?
By Mary H. Cooper


r19980327cover.gif (Photo Credit: © Photodisc)
(Photo Credit: © Photodisc)

In the late 1980s, acting on fears that landfill space was running out, communities across the country began curbside collection of paper, glass, metal and plastic waste. Polls suggest that Americans strongly support recycling, despite the fact that the United States remains the world's leading “throwaway society.” But critics say recycling is often a wasted effort, helping consumers' consciences more than the environment or the economy. Markets for recycled materials are notoriously volatile, and it often costs more to recycle waste than it does to simply bury it in a landfill. Recycling supporters, however, say the benefits of recycling far outweigh its drawbacks and predict a strong market for recycled materials in the future.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Trash and Recycling
Mar. 27, 1998  The Economics of Recycling
Mar. 20, 1992  Garbage Crisis
Nov. 17, 1989  America Turns to Recycling
Sep. 11, 1987  Garbage Crisis
Aug. 23, 1974  Solid Waste Technology
Mar. 12, 1969  Waste Disposal: Coming Crisis
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Recycling and Solid Waste