The key to making recycling work is having a market for what is recycled.
Recyclables are just more trash if they can't be put to profitable use. That's why government mandates to recycle are well-intentioned, but shortsighted. Instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to force people to recycle, government should be trying to build profitable markets for recyclables. Then residents would recycle willingly, because it would make economic sense.
For example, a task force appointed by Gov. Cecil Underwood has come up with a potential market for old tires : power plants. The task force, which reported to Gov. Underwood last week, said the state should encourage utilities to burn old tires along with coal to generate electricity. The state should also encourage the use of natural gas, wood chips and animal waste as combined fuels with coal, the task force recommended.
The task force pointed out several benefits of combining fuels:
n First, it could create a market for waste products. That is, it would increase recycling.
n It could make the state's coal reserves last longer.
n It could reduce toxic emissions from power plants.
n It could help keep the cost of electricity low.
The state should offer tax credits, emission credits and other incentives to utilities that use combined fuels, according to the task force. The task force also said the state should make sure that burning combined fuels doesn't get utilities tangled up in a lengthy new permitting process.
Technology that allows the burning of combined fuels exists. Allegheny Power plans to begin burning 10 percent tire-derived fuel at its Willow Island plant on May 1. But for the most part, combined-fuels technology hasn't been cost-effective. Making it cost-effective would be a worthy goal for state government.