Home » Big Issues » Trash Talking: The Recycling Hoax Explained

Trash Talking: The Recycling Hoax Explained

Recycling specific material is supposed to be good for the planet, save money and make us feel better. The truth is recycling is all a big “SCAM”.

ALL the recyclables collected over all these many years has had little impact on the planet and in SOME cases the trash sorted isn’t even being recycled. In an effort to save the company money it’s going straight into your local landfill anyway.

First, Some Background
Remember the 70s when this “Save the Planet” recycling fad began? It was so attractive it became chic to save and sort our trash. This seemed like the right thing to do and it made us FEEL GOOD.

Some people became totally possessed with this guilt-free worship to the trash police Gods. They tried to convince all their friends and neighbors to help them save Mother Earth one piece of plastic / one aluminum can at a time”.

And who can forget the crying American Indian? There was the famous 1971 TV commercial featuring Iron Eyes Cody shedding a tear over the trashing of his native land (not to mention us taking over his land and moving him to a reservation). All of this was just another pale-face lie.

Never mind that … the Keep America Beautiful campaign was incredibly successful in raising awareness.

Now, this was LONG before Al Gore started preaching about the Human-Caused Global Warming. Recycling became the battle cry of a not-so-silent minority of environmentalists (aka – tree-huggers).

Even before that (in the 50s) came the introduction of disposable bottles. Soon bottles were everywhere. States were considering bans on disposables. So what did American Can, Owens-Illinois and Coke do? They joined together and basically invented the concept of litter.

Thus began the campaign promoting the new fear that trash was killing this planet. They even managed to sell the concept that WE were responsible for this destruction of nature … “Packages Don’t Litter, People Do. It became OUR job to save it.”

Of course, this successfully deflected the industry’s role in actually causing the problem of trashing planet earth.

Keep America Beautiful focused on three key issues: litter prevention, waste reduction / recycling and community greening & beautification. They claim this could be accomplished through a combination of community organizing, public education and the fostering of public/private partnerships.

This drum has been beaten so long and loud by this minority of “tree-huggers” some people actually believe it to be true. Today we find many communities forcing their citizens to sort their trash before pick up. And they are “happy” to do it … gotta save the planet and all that, you know?

Today, more people recycle than vote.

“Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America. A waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources” – The New York Times

The Truth
This scam is actually being perpetrated by big business on the citizens and municipalities of America.

Who sponsors the National Recycling Coalition? Look! Its the same people behind America Recycles Day: Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Owens-Illinois, International Bottled Water Association, the same people who brought you that other PR fraud … Keep America Beautiful.

Recycling is simply the transfer of producer responsibility for what they produce to the taxpayer who has to pick it up and take it away.

Of course EVERYONE wants to save the planet. More importantly everyone wants to THINK they can save the planet. The sad truth is … It Can’t Be Done.

You need only to watch the 2004 episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! on Showtime. They explain that it actually takes more energy to recycle a plastic bottle than to make a new one.

The good news is that recycling aluminum cans DOES work. It actually cost less to make a can from old dead cans than from scratch. Collecting them and turning them into a center DOES pay.

Products made from recycled material sounds “neat and cool” but simply save us NO money or resources to make.

At least all this paper being recycled save trees, Right??
Wrong. Today we grow trees especially for making paper. Almost all of our paper comes from virgin pulp from tree farms. The truth is recycling saves NO TREES.

In the 80s the trash industry faced another challenge; The Landfill Crises. The EPA put out a report saying we were running out of land. This was actually false and the guy who wrote that report now backtracks and admits he was wrong. This also led us to more recycling.

Cash for Trash
Nowadays citizens, including the homeless, can take their “recyclables” directly to the centers; items like unwanted paper, cardboard, plastic, Styrofoam, shrink wrap, aluminum and other scrap metals, carpet padding, car headboards and even insulating material from the manufacture of appliances. This can fetch some bucks when baled and sold to recycling mills.

Most companies pay about $300 for an onsite roll-off trash container. And this $300 does not include the additional cost brought about by the weight of waste materials within the container. If your container is being hauled away twice a week and it is half full of cardboard, that means that you are paying at least $300 per week to have your waste cardboard hauled away.

Most of the time, that cardboard is being separated by the waste hauler (who charges you the $300) and sold to a recycling mill. So not only does the waste hauler collect money from you to haul the cardboard away, he is making money selling it as well.

How did you think Waste Management managed to sponsor the PGA’s Phoenix Open this year? Gives you a new meaning to “Think Green” and join the “Green Revolution”, doesn’t it? (we mean green money)

Where do those materials go once they’re picked up? Will they will actually be recycled? How do you know they’re not just going to end up in a landfill? It’s impossible to say. But MANY companies have been caught just tossing everything into the landfill.

We’ll Come To You
In 1973, University City, Missouri was the first city to begin a curbside recycling program for newspaper collection. Today, its estimated that there’s an excess of 10,000 curbside recycling programs across the United States.

The EPA has figured that, of the nation’s trash, about 30% is recycled today. They also admit that 40% of the trash picked up to be recycled ends up in a landfill instead.

Fact is, in almost every community, its MORE expensive to recycle than it is to simply throw it in their land fill.

At first, people had to separate their recycling. Plastics went in one bin, glass in another, paper in a third. But with the introduction of single-stream collection, people can put all of their recyclables in one place.

Today is cost us about $50 to $60 a ton to simply throw or trash away into landfills. To recycle, it costs THREE TIMES MORE. To send men to your house to pick up your and handle your recyclables costs $150 a ton. They were coming by anyway weren’t they?

This burden of transporting, sorting and cleaning for re-use greatly impacts the local communities.

Isn’t this recycling thing supposed to be helping by saving us money and saving us energy?

Oh and don’t forget what the federal government does to programs that don’t work – Subsidies! This cost us tax payers nearly EIGHT billion dollars a year.

Are there any Recycle Centers run privately? Maybe a few. But these centers are NOT truly profitable (even with all this trash) and most are run by local municipalities, subsidized by the government. They are actually a public subsidy – a tax – thanks to the garbage police.

Penn Jillette explains; “We’re feeling good for no reason.”

Yep – this is a scam that only benefit is that it makes us FEEL GOOD

Now, that you know the facts how do you feel now?


  1. It’s ok, Ethynol Gasoline will save us money and resources!!! Gotta love the stupidity of government. All those resources and still don’t have the sense of a knat.

    • Wait, don’t put a knat in the same space as a moron from the government. You must realize a knat can fly, seek food and water, look for a chickie (and vice-versa) and get the hell out of the way when you swat it. Now that takes some skill and intelligence. The government folks are almost only good for getting in the way and dumping crap on us. Now do you respect the knat somewhat more than you did an hour ago?

    • Geez, it’s “gnat”, NOT “knat”.

    • Recycling may not be for everyone… but for everything that is recycled, it does benefit everyone.. if even only in a small, indirect way. If recycling was not in the least possible way benneficial, why would recycle centers offer money for the public to bring it in to them? Have they money to throw away? Have you thought about the fact that this effort at least brings jobs to people who work at the recycling centers, helping to keep someone off the unemployment list and provide some support for their families? Has it occurred to you that however much is recycled that it will lenghten the life of any landfill site? You cannot see that what ever little bit of recycling saves of our natural resources makes it last just that much longer – even if it costs the same to produce? Our landscape is littered enough now, how much worse would it be without the percentage of material that IS being recycled? It takes a little effort, but the more people who will do their part, I can’t help but believe it will not make a difference. You can see the differnence in residential areas where people who care and those who do not. I would rather live with those who do care. There sometimes is a bigger picture and bennefits that not always immediately fall on your doorstep or directly in your own pocket.

  2. I beg to differ with you on recycling. It’s the law in my state, in my county and in my township to separate our trash. The township charges a fee to wastehaulers to pick up the trash and recyclable materials. The citizen taxpayer pays a fee to the haulers but the township receives $20.00 a ton for recyclable materials which goes into the general treasury of the township and helps keep our taxes down.

    This waste has to go somewhere. The resources of the planet are finite. It takes less energy to recycle than it does to extract, refine and ship new plastic and metal. We have run out of land fill space and we can’t incinerate the waste. Should we just pile it up and burn it and foul our air, water, land and food? Why do you hate the environment? This program is a win win for the environment and the taxpayers. Ideally there should be a complete recycling of all materials we extract, make and use. Otherwise we will eventually drown or kill ourselves and the ecosystem from the toxins that will cause cancer. We are on a spaceship called planet Earth and we need to be good stewards of that spaceship all we will slowly kill all lifeforms on this planet.

    • Whoa, lock up that refrigerator, Paul has been tippling the green kool aid so much his brain has turned green! He’s bought into the “Mother Gaia” fairy tale lock stock and plastic bottle so deep he’s gonna need lots of help and counseling when the truth finally begins to dawn on him!

      • Actually Roger, you’re the one drinking the flavor-aide…guess you never heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, either, huh?…probably don’t care, since it “doesn’t effect you” (but it really does, you’ll be just as dead as the rest of us when all is said and done)…too busy trying to cover your eyes and your ears at the same time to do your own research?…here’s a hint: use a blindfold and some ear plugs…ahhh…that better?

    • I think this article is absurd. You act as though recycling is foolish. Lets just cover our planet in trash then and see what happens.
      I am educated on all of this and I have had tours of landfills and seen the recycling process be done. Not only that I buy post consumer products all the time.
      I would like to know where you get your information. This appears to be a rant of someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about and clearly doesn’t support the environment.
      I am disgusted that you are an American citizen.

    • Being an ‘old geezer’ – female version – I can remember when most products were sold in glass containers which were returned to the store for refunds of the deposits required. Also, washed and reused at home for storing leftovers, etc. Vegetable waste was put in the compost pile for use on plants in the garden or yard. We really had very little trash and the cost of picking up and reusing the glass containers was borne by the manufacturer of the original products. Seems a reasonable solution to me.

  3. Well, with BILLIONS of humans trapped on this mud ball in space we’ve GOT to do something with all that garbage! Isn’t there some decent way to dispose of it to the benefit of at least someone? Without subsidies? I know! Let’s build that magnetic accelerator spaceship launcher thingy and shoot it all into space! If we’re careful, we could use the minuscule thrust to move our questions planet to a cooler orbit. So much for global warming, huh? But of course the government will run that project and shoot us all right into the sun! Seriously though, we’ve got to do something with it. Bite the bullit, pay the money. At least we get SOME small use out of recycling.

  4. Well, with BILLIONS of humans trapped on this mud ball in space we’ve GOT to do something with all that garbage! Isn’t there some decent way to dispose of it to the benefit of at least someone? Without subsidies? I know! Let’s build that magnetic accelerator spaceship launcher thingy and shoot it all into space! If we’re careful, we could use the minuscule thrust to move our planet to a cooler orbit. So much for global warming, huh? But of course the government will run that project and shoot us all right into the sun! Seriously though, we’ve got to do something with it. Bite the bullit, pay the money. At least we get SOME small use out of recycling.

  5. Dogman Ike Robinson

    I’m a small-government, gun-toting, (NRA and SASS member) “bitter clinger,” but also a dedicated recycler. I hate littering so I pick up other peoples’ litter as well as my own and recycle it. I’m especially fond of collecting the soft-drink cans of the workers in the company where I work, and bringing them (the cans, that is) to the package (liquor – we say “packie” here in Massachusetts) store and redeeming them for the required five cents per can deposit. I then buy a lot of beer with the proceeds. So recycling works for me! :>) PS: I NEVER tote my guns while drinking my beer, just in case you were wondering.

  6. Too bad more municipalities won’t buy the direct recycler unit from Japan that converts plastics back into oil!

  7. The aluminum is the only part of the stream that has good value for recycling. The paper and plastic is best used in waste to energy plants. I don’t think it pays to recycle the glass but it can be crushed to take up less space in landfills.

  8. Is it really necessary to point out that COST isn’t the only reason to recycle? It’s also not the only way of judging the social utility of any program. Hell, if cost was the only factor in placing value, we’d not have Medicare or Medicaid, not have unemployment compensation, and nobody would pay for cancer treatments.

    This focus on money only is a large part of what is wrong with our society today. And I truly believe than anyone who presents this idea to you as a ‘solution’ is a big part of the ‘greed crowd’ and anything they propose should be listened to with much suspicion. Sorry Mr. Kerr, but if you don’t realize that recycling plastics is as much about reusing oil products as it is about keeping the neighborhood clean, you’re just ‘out of it’.

  9. I have been recycling for over 15 years . I’m about as far from an “Environmentalist” as one can get. Drill baby Drill!! It makes me furious and has for years that so much of recycling is a scam but I do it because I consider it being a “Conservationist” and whatever small amount I can contribute to saving our earth I will do. I see it as in a lot of cases, a way for higher income Environmentalist Jerks to feel better about themselves. People like me recycle things such as plastic which are turned into decking or fences which are so damn high priced only upper income people can afford them. These same people then can brag about how THEY are helping the environment( while throwing their recyclables in the trash) and look down on the people who actually do try to help. My question is and has been for years …Why doesn’t someone , with all of the technology we have today, invent a burner that will incinerate trash without polluting the air?? I believe it could be done ! The idea of the barges which go out and dump waste into the ocean turning it into a toxic killing ground that is destroying plant and animal life ( which is part of our food supply) should sicken (Literally) all of us!! Talk about Sh****ing in your own nest!!

    • Look at Finland, and Scandinavia and those countries. They already recycle everything and clean burn the rest , using it to heat homes and public buildings.

  10. It’s obvious that the bottling & packaging industries want to deflect responsibility & cost from their businesses’ bottom lines. They aren’t concerned about the “greeding” of America-instead, they’re part of it.

    For example, there’s NO technological reason–IS there?–why most all consumer plastic containers can’t be made of 100% recyclable plastic compounds.

    OR made of recyclable glass containers.

    For that matter, no reason why styrofoam containers can’t instead be made of some biodegradable paper glop.

    To build massive heaps of containers whose toxic parts will remain intact & polluting our waters, ground & all species for 100′s of generations (that’s most plastics)–
    just to serve for a few minutes’ convenience–
    would have gotten you judged insanely selfish, stupid & a failure by all of mankind before 50 years ago.

    We survived & thrived as a civilization up through the 1950s without this massive waste & pollution from consumer packaging.

    Mindless worship of the dollar–ironically, such an easy-to-recycle product–has led to the greatest crapifying efforts in history. We can reverse this.

  11. The point of the article is not that we shouldn’t do anything about the excess plastics. The point is that it is those who make the plasic bottles like CocaCola, etc that are the sponsors of all the “Keep America Clean” campaigns, etc… The solution is actually VERY simple… Don’t produce the plastic bottles! Coke, pepsi, etc. can simply refuse to use plastic bottles therefore eliminating the source of the problem!

    The article is very clear in its message. All of you who have blinders on who want to think that the stuff going on isn’t are just as guilty as the next guy.

    Bottom line is, the American people don’t want to pay the price… But when the price is shifted to oir trash/recycle pickup we think we are doing something for the greater good. Reality is the manufacturers should be taking the responsibily and shifting from plastic back to glass or aluminum (which as noted in this article, aluminum is much less costly to recycle than creating new cans. Plastic however is NOT, so let’s stop using it rather than trying to recycle it)

    Paper is no big deal as it is biodegradible and renewable!

    Ok, now let’s move forward!

  12. It is a shame! People and business do not want glass product containers. If they did they would still be here and no plastic containers would exist. I think the magic bullet exists to rid us of plastic bottles. Glass! The other problem with plastics is just about everything made to be sold on this planet has plastics in or on it. Especially our packaged foods either dry or frozen. Stop the use of plastic cereal box liners, plastic coated paper for frozen food boxes, plastic trays for said frozen food, plastic coated milk and other liquid containers and the list goes on and on and on. Do away with styrofoam as it can not be recycled. It goes to the landfill for a million years. Use formed cardboard as one person here on this forum suggests for packaging. It is up to the producers of this garbage to put a stop to making it or be forced to do so!

  13. I don’t know or care where you got your information. I work at a small recycle facility for our county last quarter we made just shy of one hundred thousand dollars for our county just recycling cardboard,paper,aluminum and tin cans. Another coupl with a private contract on scrap metal made (suspected) much more.
    Not everyone in this county is helping but still this money helps the county and doesn’t go into the landfill.
    Recycling is verry important and should be promoted nation wide.

  14. I feel the plan should be to eliminate waste instead of recycling. What is the matter with using a cloth towel instead of paper towels to dry your hands, use regular plates instead of paper/plastic, cloth diapers instead of paper, etc.. I have given only a few ideas here to save space there are many more. I have practiced what I preach here and use many more ways to save not only money, but resources as well.

    We have become such a society of waste that we think that recycling is the answer.

  15. The author of this article is an idiot.

  16. As quoted from the author’s own self description at the end of his diatribe (with apparent grammatical errors copied directly) :

    He feels secure in his dad was right when he told him, “Don’t worry … you can always serve as a bad example”.

    I guess, despite describing yourself as a writer/researcher for many years, you still choose to use the technique of just saying what you want without looking up the facts…I arrive at that conclusion since while your comments about bottlers and packagers passing the buck on to consumers is quite true, I have to say that your comments about aluminum being the only currently recycled (common) material that is worth the effort or cost to recycle…well, that’s just dead wrong.
    Nice try, but next time do a bit more “research” if you claim to be a researcher…How’d you get this bit published, anyway?
    Thanks, from a recycler of many decades with a BA and MS in Environmental Sciences who has, actually, done research into the effectiveness of recycling.

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