When the first Earth Day observance was staged on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans gathered at various venues across the country, in order to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. One of the ideas promoted as an agenda action item was that of recycling, particularly as it related to things made from metal, glass, paper, and plastic. This idea was considered to be a no-brainer, to be accepted virtually without question. After all, had not generations of Americans been raised on the admonition, “Waste not, want not!”?
And so municipalities from coast to coast started setting up recycling programs in order to encourage people to become responsible stewards of the environment. With the passage of time, as often happens when the heavy hand of government gets involved, what started out as voluntary eventually became compulsory, to the point where curbside recycling is now almost as prevalent as curbside garbage collection.
Disposing of Junkie Ideas
After more than four decades, we have now had enough experience with recycling to see that it is not the panacea that it was cracked up to be. In some cases, the downside is so obvious that even an elementary-school student can grasp it. Brooke Williamsen, a sixth grader in Appleton, Wisconsin, made the following observation in a report that she wrote as a class project:
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