Can circular thinking set us free from the ‘recycling religion’?

Mike Hower
Friday, February 5, 2016 – 12:01am
WM Forum
Courtesy ofWM2016

As blasphemous as it may sound, some things just shouldn’t be recycled. Onstage are John Tierney, author and The New York Times science writer; Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary and now co-host of The Five on Fox News Channel; Adam Minter, author and columnist at Bloomberg.

Recycling waste is more trouble than it’s worth, according to John Tierney, author and New York Times science writer, in his widely read and contested Op-Ed, “The Reign of Recycling.”

“The recycling movement is floundering, and its survival depends on continual subsidies, sermons and policing,” he concluded in October. “How can you build a sustainable city with a strategy that can’t even sustain itself?”

But Tierney spoke of recycling with a slightly more moderate tone Thursday at the 2016 Waste Management Executive Sustainability Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. WM produced the event, which GreenBiz hosted and livecasted.

Tierney conceded that “recycling does make sense for some materials at some times in some places. … My problem is with what I called the ‘recycling religion.’ The idea that recycling is an inherently virtuous activity, that the more we do of it the better, and that the ultimate goal should be achieving zero waste.”

At the forum, business, government and nonprofit leaders explored the idea that cities, companies and consumers should break free of their zealotry for recycling and open their minds to rethink waste from a more holistic perspective.

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