The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

January 12, 2014

Our View: Recycling convenience comes with price

WHY IT MATTERS: The bottle fee is again re-emerging at the Legislature and we need to weigh in on how far we will go for convenience

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a proposed 10-cent fee for bottles and cans in an effort to increase recycling volume that has been relatively stagnant.

Whether it is this proposal or some other, we need a solution.

In the recent past, there were generations who lived by the philosophy of “waste not, want not.” Those were during earlier hard economic times and necessity forced us to patch, repair, use and re-use as many items as we could until they fell apart.

Some generations today even take pride in the fact that they can squeeze all the available life out of a product before having to throw it away.

But times have changed.

With modernization and increased productivity we can churn out products more cheaply and make them available for more people to enjoy and consume.

But there is a tradeoff. With such convenience came a whole workforce that fell aside. Businesses that repaired shoes, televisions, clocks and even computer printers could not be sustained. Icemen and milkmen are almost fanciful figments of imagination for some. It is now easier and cheaper to buy new than fix something up.

But with convenience came responsibility. Waste facilities started to mount and trash hills became mountains. Municipalities began expanding their solid waste disposal services to handle such throwaway products until it became socially and environmentally unacceptable to be so conspicuously and unconsciously wasteful.

With our newfound conscience, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, solid waste per person peaked in 2000 and the recycling rate has increase from 10 percent of waste in 1980 to 34 percent in 2011.

But this government service comes with a government cost. And that’s where we are now. With increasing demand that governments find ways to reduce costs, Minnesota is looking to reduce its cost of recycling and put the burden elsewhere.

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