Recycling is Not Garbage: Fighting the Anti-Environmentalists

In recent months, a small but vocal chorus of anti-environmentalists have tried to cast doubt on the value of recycling. Responding to this conservative and corporate backlash, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) compiled a report "Too Good to Throw Away: Recycling's Proven Record," to address the claims of anti-environmentalist interests and provide detailed documentation of how and why recycling works."In general," writes NRDC senior scientist and the report's author, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, "recycling is opposed by conservative theorists and executives and trade group lobbyists working for extractive industries such as mining and timber, as well as those representing a few, large manufacturers of grocery products and plastics."Until recently, the backlash against recycling remained somewhat concealed, but then the New York Times Magazine published its cover story, "Recycling is Garbage," the most prominent attack to date on the nation's growing commitment to recycling.In the June 30, 1996, article, John Tierney, a staff writer for the magazine, argued that most recycling efforts are economically unsound and of questionable environmental value. Tierney described recycling as perhaps "the most wasteful activity in modern America."Hershkowitz sets the record straight in the NRDC report. He shows how recycling conserves natural resources, prevents pollution, saves energy, reduces the need for land fills and helps protect and expand manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Hershkowitz then shows how anti-environmental rhetoric originated in far-right think tanks and the advertising campaigns of oil, timber and other companies that consume natural resources.The backlash of the anti-environmentalist interests has yet to alter the face of recycling. In fact, recycling is a global phenomenon. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported last year at the National Recycling Coalition Conference, "There are 7,500 recycling programs [in the U.S.] compared to 1,000 in 1988, and the number continues to grow. Now about 120 million people, or 48 percent of the population, have access to curbside collection programs."For more information, contact the Natural Resources Defense Council at 212-727-2700, or visit their web site: For information about the report, call Hershkowitz at 212-727-2700.

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