by MaryBeth Radeck for SUST 240
Over the last five years around the country, cities have been penalizing households for ignoring their civic duty to recycle through fines for not recycling. $100 fines to households in Cleveland and whopping $500 fines in San Francisco are levied for ignoring laws on recycling and composting. Punitive, yes. But for good reason. Stowing trash in landfills contributes to global climate change and as landfills settle, toxic wastes leach into the water table, polluting ground and drinking water. It’s senseless and also a waste of limited resources. In 2009, only 34% of waste was recovered, leaving $7 billion of recyclables in landfills, according to America the Beautiful.
The cost to stash trash in landfills not only damages the environment, it eats into municipal budgets and eventually causes tax hikes. A City of St. Louis analysis compared recycling versus landfills and found substantial savings of over $1M per year made possible by a 25% increase in recycling. In addition, the city stands to earn income from selling reclaimed waste and tax income from attracting recycling businesses to St. Louis. Businesses would bring jobs to the area as well. Economically, recycling makes good sense. But forcing it with fines? How about becoming a positive force in the community, instead?