Everyone agrees recycling aluminum cans, paper and plastic is an environmentally sound idea. But if recycling ever really is to catch on in Utah, it will be driven by economics, not en-vi-ron-men-tal-ism.
That's according to Roger Gillespie, general manager of Utah Recycling and a member of the state's Recycling Task Force, which met Tuesday to discuss how Utah can better incorporate recycling into its lifestyle."We want to do the right thing, but we can't always afford to," Gillespie told the task force. "If we don't have a market for it (recycled product), then it's nothing more than trash."
Gillespie said he often deals with people who believe it is his moral responsibility to accept various waste products for recycling - even if he can't sell the recycled product. And they are not always convinced when he uses his free-enterprise argument.
"We're like any other business. We are market driven," he said.
For example, there is currently no market in Utah for recycled glass, Gillespie said. And Utah Recycling lost a lot of money trying to make it work.
"If we cannot turn a profit, we can't do it," he said. "Recycling will be decided on an economic playing field, not an environmental playing field."
And neither the government nor the public should mandate that recyclers accept recyclable products they cannot sell. Rather, there should be incentives for recycling businesses to stay in business, he said.
One way to make recycling more viable, he said, is to do a better job of separating recyclable materials before they get mixed in with other household garbage at the landfill.
Members of the task force openly questioned how far the state was willing to go to encourage or even mandate recycling. "Are we willing to tell manufacturers they will not sell products in Utah unless the containers are recyclable?" asked one member.
The task force is accepting testimony from experts and policymakers concerning the recycling of everything from used tires to old newspapers. The task force will then make recommendations to the 1992 Legislature.