Media Release – Thinking Sensibly About Recycling and the Environment: The Frontier Centre challenges misconceptions about size of the problem recycling addresses

Press Release, Environment, Frontier Centre


Regina: The Frontier Centre today released Thinking Sensibly about Recycling and the Environment , a new policy paperfrom senior policy analyst David Seymour. The report challenges the popular notion that the only problem with recycling is that enough of it doesn’t take place. Seymour notes that recycling is useful but not the path to environmentalist salvation that some make it out to be.
Thinking Sensibly analyzes the size of three problems that recycling is often supposed to address: landfill overflow, resource extraction impacts, and resource shortages. The paper found that:
  •  A rough calculation of landfill impacts shows that if Canada’s population doubled and the amount of waste per Canadian also doubled over the next one hundred years, Canadians could still dispose of no waste in 99 per cent of the country’s area, and use only one per cent of the remaining one per cent for land filling.        
  • A look at Canada’s forest cover finds that forest cover is stable because trees harvested are replanted, that only one-ninth  of one percent of the total forest area is harvested for paper production; that level of harvesting is consistently below the Annual Allowable Cut that provincial governments across the country deem sustainable. 
  • The question of running out of resources is impossible to answer quantitatively because technology continually changes the resources required for modern life. The substitution of glass fibre cables for copper wire in telecommunications is but one example. This also means that recycling to save resources is pointless without knowing which resources need to be saved.
“This is not an anti-recycling paper,” according to its author, David Seymour. “It’s about using quantitative data instead of emotional and selective anecdotes to look at what recycling can really achieve.”  Seymour notes that when some assert recycling must occur to prevent cities being “buried in garbage,” such over-the-top claims do not present the size of the problem honestly.
The paper concludes that voters and government policy makers should be more sober in their approach to recycling. Recycling can make sense, but it doesn’t always. Policy makers should realize that non-recycling waste strategies include the cost of complying with environmental regulations, and so if recycling is still more expensive than dumping and replacing, they have to look the cost vis-à-vis other uses for the public resources.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s author, media (only) should contact:

David Seymour

Gary Slywchuk
Troy Media Corporation