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Letters: Seeing benefits of recycling on LI

Workers at the Town of Brookhaven recycling center

Workers at the Town of Brookhaven recycling center in Yaphank. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

We were disappointed to read that recycling in some cases makes no economic sense, as this contradicts research we have conducted [“Recycling not as cheap as you think,” Opinion, Jan. 4].

If collection is managed efficiently for systems like those on Long Island — where the organization collecting and managing waste does not own the disposal sites — substantial sums of money can be saved by diverting wastes to recycling.

Recycling services cost less than disposal services. This creates an “avoided cost,” which for the Town of Brookhaven results in recycling saving about $100 per ton compared with disposal.

Also, as economists know well, not all costs are included in standard accounting. “Externalities,” such as environmental impacts, are excluded from simple cost analyses, and recycling has been shown to save natural resources and energy, and to reduce climate change effects.

Thus, for Long Island, where people recycle about 30 percent of their waste, benefits from recycling could easily be calculated to be more than $50 million a year.

That’s a far stretch from costing taxpayers money.

David J. Tonjes, R. Lawrence Swanson, Stony Brook

Editor’s note: The writers are the director and research associate professor, respectively, for the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook University.


Opinion writer William F. Shughart II makes some valid points, but he also left out a few items from the equation.

Without looking at every cost, it’s not that easy to tell whether recycling makes true economic sense. On Long Island, we can’t bury our trash in a landfill — unless we want to drink it in a few years. We have to either truck it to a landfill off Long Island or burn it. Both have negative carbon consequences that Shughart didn’t mention.

Incineration — or garbage-to-energy — must not be that cost effective; otherwise, why would the Town of Babylon have had to force carters to dump at the incinerator?

Recycling costs money, but reducing the waste stream saves money. Recycling should be just one part of the overall solution.

Don Weimer, North Babylon