By Daniel K. Benjamin
Recycling has always been one way of dealing with waste products. Starting about twenty years ago, however, a new viewpoint began to emerge—one that placed recycling above traditional methods of waste disposal.
Aroused by fear of a garbage crisis, and spurred on by the misleading story of the garbage barge Mobro, Americans—and others around the world—lost their sense of perspective on rubbish. Public rhetoric was increasingly dominated by claims that were either dubious or patently false.
This essay, "Eight Great Myths of Recycling," by Daniel K. Benjamin, exposes the errors and falsehoods underlying the rhetoric. It clarifies the appropriate role of recycling, based on history and market relationships.
Daniel K. Benjamin is professor of economics at Clemson University and a senior associate of PERC—the Center for Free Market Environmentalism—where he heads PERC's graduate fellows program. He is a regular contributor to PERC Reports with his column "Tangents—Where Research and Policy Meet." Benjamin's most recent book is The Economics of Public Issues (2003), written with Roger Leroy Miller and Douglass C. North.