A large recycling facility that bills itself as a “world leader” in protecting the environment has amassed more than $962,000 in fines during the past five years for violating the Clean Air Act, National Public Radio reports. The fines make the Verallia recycling facility the most heavily fined facility in the Pacific Northwest.
While recycling facilities help conserve resources such as wood and metals, there are negative environmental – as well as economic – consequences to recycling.
Collecting materials for recycling often requires large waste management trucks logging many extra miles and therefore emitting more pollution. The extra gasoline used in collecting materials weighs against the wood and metals conserved. The recycling process itself is energy intensive, using more energy resources and emitting more pollution. The recycling process also tends to produce more consolidated toxic waste that is more likely to pollute the environment than landfill disposal in sealed underground containers.
Recycling can provide net benefits in certain circumstances but, as the EPA fines against Verallia facility show, doing things that make us feel good aren’t necessarily what is best for the environment.