cover image Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy

Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy

Frank Ackerman. Island Press, $35 (222pp) ISBN 978-1-55963-504-2

Ackerman's thoughtful, sure-to-be-controversial study lifts the debate over the merits of recycling to a new level. Well-run recycling programs frequently do not save money, he reports, and would do only slightly better even with the implementation of more market incentives. Nevertheless, he insists, critics of recycling minimize or ignore its widespread environmental benefits. In our throwaway consumerist society, he argues, recycling is a commitment to the greater good, a form of altruism vital to creating a sustainable economy predicated on greater reliance on renewable materials, waste prevention and limits to population and consumption growth. A research professor at the Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute, Ackerman presents often surprising findings regarding plastic packaging in landfills, bottle recycling programs and composting, such as the fact that polypropylene (number-five plastic) actually generates less waste than the more frequently recycled high-chemistry number-two plastic. He also provides a useful appraisal of Germany's ""open dot"" program, which requires manufacturers to recover and reuse packaging--a program adapted by several other European countries but virtually ignored in the U.S. (Feb.)