In 1996, New York Times science columnist John Tierney wrote an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine about compulsory recycling titled “Recycling is Garbage.” Tierney’s controversial argument in that article can be summarized as follows: Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America. Tierney wrote, “Rinsing out tuna cans and tying up newspapers may make you feel virtuous, but it’s a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources. Americans have embraced recycling as a transcendental experience, an act of moral redemption. We’re not just reusing our garbage; we’re performing a rite of atonement for the sin of excess.” Now you can understand why Tierney’s recycling article set the all-time record for the greatest volume of hate mail ever recorded in the history of the New York Times Magazine.
Because it was one of the first and most effective challenges to the naive, pro-recycling propaganda that has been used to successfully brainwash millions of American school children for the last quarter century, I’ve featured John Tierney’s classic recycling article on CD many times over the years (especially around the “green holy days” known as “Earth Day” and “America Recycles Day”), including here, here, here, and here.
It’s been almost 20 years since John Tierney taught us that “recycling is garbage.” Fortunately, he has just provided a recycling update in today’s New York Times with a new article titled “The Reign of Recycling.” So, what has happened over the last two decades? According to Tierney, “While it’s true that the recycling
message religion has reached more people converts than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all.” And what about recycling’s future? It “looks even worse,” says Tierney.