Iowa City Stories

May 13, 2010

Recycling: A Waste of Time?

Filed under: IC Stories: Coons, Recycling, Iowa City Stories — jnc0420 @ 10:20 am

Nearly ten years ago, Lone Tree resident, Mike Sammons read a New York Times article that would forever change his views on recycling.

In 2001, the Muscatine native was a self described, “dread-locked, hippy who believed in saving the world through recycling.”

That was before he read John Tierney’s article, “Recycling is Garbage,” a few years after it first appeared in The New York Times. The article confirmed what Sammons had suspected for years: recycling is overrated.

“We recycle because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy but the end result isn’t what people think,” Sammons said as he took a sip from his bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon — a bottle he had no intent of recycling.

Mike’s viewpoint is not popular among his peers, but then neither are many of his other beliefs: He is also against disc golf and “completely over listening to bluegrass.”

“I’ve been universally rejected, people just don’t want to hear about it,” he said.

“He has some interesting points, but I can’t help but disagree,” said long-time friend, Luke Mescher, who’s had altercations with litterbugs outside of his former place of employment, Falbo’s Pizza.

Mike’s main reason for believing that recycling on an individual level is a waste of time is how much big businesses throw out every year.

“As residents, we can recycle as much as we want. It’s still not going to make enough of a difference if companies continue to produce so much waste. Even if every household did recycle, we would still have a major problem … we’d have all kinds of excess recyclable-material backup, waiting to be recycled,” Sammons said, adding that glass is especially not worth the effort.

“Of recycled glass, only about five percent can be used in new products,” he said.

Sammons also lauds Styrofoam, claiming that the energy that goes into creating a ceramic mug is 1,000 times greater than that of Styrofoam.

“And don’t even get me started on paper,” he said, claiming that we waste more water through recycling paper than what we would use creating new paper.

While Sammons admits that plastic waste is bad, he references Tierney’s article when he makes the argument that cardboard and paper, though technically biodegradable, have a hard time breaking down in segregated landfills due to lack of oxygen. This results in paper products taking up much more space than their plastic-packaging counterparts.

“We spend needless time worrying about recycling paper, which is a renewable resource, Sammons said, “yet we don’t think twice about trashing cell phones and I-Pods, let alone the resources it takes to make the damn things.”

A point Dave Gilson made clear in the March 2010 issue of Mother Jones.

But what about the “go green” movement? The amount of individuals that bring reusable bags to the grocery store have to be doing something good, right?

“The only reason they’re bringing those bags is because the stores started charging for throw-away bags,” Sammons said. “The things that an individual can do aren’t going to offset the damage of industrial pollution,” he said.

Not to be entirely wasteful, Sammons does practice composting, though not because it’s good for the environment. “I compost because I have a garden, not because I give a damn,” he said.

“I’m cynical, I’ve given up hope. Let’s just enjoy the sinking ship,” Sammons said.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] aside (I had just spoken with anti-recycler, Mike Sammons) Gruwell spoke of great ideas for Iowa City: Namely, a bike-exchange program that would allow […]

    Pingback by Earth Day in Iowa City « Iowa City Stories — May 13, 2010 @ 11:23 am


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