December 3, 2017
Write and Respond #2
The amount of material and information I was unfamiliar with that we covered in Math 33 throughout the course of the semester far exceeded my expectations. Many of the lectures and guest speakers were eye-opening to me in the sense that they introduced many important concepts that I thought I knew more about than I actually did, and certainly concepts that I should pay more attention to in the future. The recycling unit was one which probably stood out to me the most, largely because it’s such an important and common aspect of everyone’s day to day lives and plays an enormous role within societies around the world. This unit also made me realize how little I actually know about recycling, which is something that I’ve actively participated in without consciously thinking about the effects and implications that it has both economically and environmentally. I learned several things in each of the sources that were provided pertaining to recycling, and many of the statistics and lessons will certainly be in the back of my mind as recycling continues to play a role in my life. I was impressed to learn that recycling efforts have increased dramatically over the past several decades and have become far more efficient as well, with the recycle rate in the United States being roughly 32%, up from 9% in 1980 (http://www.economist.com/node/9249262). European countries have also making incredible advances, with recycling rates soaring in many places across the continent. It’s also important to know some of the positive benefits from efficiently recycling, including but not limited to conserving natural resources and reducing the amount of waste that is placed into landfills, which have been proven to yield detrimental greenhouse gases. However, despite many of these positive points being made about recycling in The Economist, I found “The Reign of Recycling” by John Tierney to be incredibly intriguing as it challenged many of my previous understandings of many aspects of recycling. The article touched on several environmental aspects of recycling, however, I found his points regarding economic aspects to be more intriguing. Tierney states that although the practice of recycling has reached more people than ever before, there hasn’t been much positive change regarding its environmental and economic impacts. As a matter of fact, he states that because “prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower prices and reduced demand for them overseas” (Tierney, NY Times). He goes on to contradict a point made in the article published in The Economist, saying that the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years, which comes as a cause for concern throughout the recycling industry. Another interesting point that Tierney brings attention to is the fact that as recycling continues to move past mostly paper and metals and into glass, food scraps, and assorted plastics, “the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish” (Tierney, NY Times). Tierney concludes his insightful article by proposing several solutions to the problems facing recycling, specifically pertaining to what a socially conscious person should consider. He mentions the possibility of proposing a tax or sorts pertaining to the carbon content of garbage, bringing light to thorough research conducted by Dr. Kinnaman, an economist at Bucknell University. Tierney theorizes that there are several alternatives and initiatives that make more sense economically and environmentally than recycling practices that are currently embraced but the fact that recycling appeals to many voters and makes people feel good about themselves is one of the driving factors behind continuing flawed recycling efforts. I believe that there are important and valid statistics and arguments presented in both the article in The Economist and John Tierney’s “The Reign of Recycling.” I also believe that there is an important lesson to be learned from the contrasting opinions of both the authors; that it’s important to consult multiple articles and sources in order to obtain several points of views and decide your stance based on the most strongly supported facts and opinions. Not only did I learn a lot from several different lessons throughout the course of Math 33 this semester, but I also improved my analytical and comparative skills in seeking the best information, which is something that I will carry with me through the remainder of my studies and into my future beyond my undergraduate education.