Our View: Not just for tree huggers

Sometimes it's hard to know whether our actions make a difference. Good deeds aren't always easy to quantify.

But Craig residents who recycle can know they make a difference.

Six months after the city opened a recycling center, residents here have recycled 12 loads of cardboard, six loads of paper and four loads of plastics, keeping the material out of the landfill.

Craig residents who recycle are part of a much bigger picture. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that recycling, which includes composting, diverted more than 72 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2003, up from 34 million tons in 1990.

Although some residents may have balked at the initial cost of the program --40,000 -- it may assuage their concerns to know recycling has economic benefits.

Recycling costs money to be sure. But so does waste disposal, which comes with fees for landfills, waste transfer stations and incinerators.

Federal environmental officials argue recycling is not only good for human health and the environment, but also makes good financial sense. Recycling can create jobs, EPA officials say.

Rarely do recycling proponents put forth the economic side of recycling. And most skeptics see it as the realm of so-called tree huggers.

Here are some of the economic and societal benefits of recycling, according to the EPA:

  • Protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace
  • Reduces the need for landfills and incineration.
  • Saves energy and prevents pollution caused by the extraction and processing of virgin materials and the manufacture of products using virgin materials.
  • Decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals.
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations.

Finally, according to the U.S. Recycling Economic Information Study, more than 56,000 recycling and reuse establishments in the United States employ about 1.1 million people, generating an annual payroll of $37 billion, grossing $236 billion in yearly revenues.

Although the bottom line is never a reason to do the right thing, it helps.

We congratulate local residents who recycle and encourage more to do so.

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