NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government's Confused Approach To Recycling

December 5, 1995

Some government rules actually discourage recycling, according to some environmentalists and free-market advocates. One law may mandate the use of recycled materials in certain products, even as another law may forbid used content in other goods.

  • The law requires the Food and Drug Administration to make sure that food packaging materials are "suitably pure," putting recycled materials at a disadvantage under this vague standard compared with virgin materials.
  • Critics also charge that the FDA's review process is too lengthy and its standards are too strict concerning use of recycled materials in food packaging.
  • Many recyclable materials are subject to hazardous waste laws if they are "discarded," but the EPA has determined that selling something to a recycler is discarding it.
  • Due to government regulations and definitions, those who deal in recyclable materials often have to shoulder greater cost burdens than those who deal in virgin materials -- thus giving a competitive edge to the latter.
  • Local building codes at times favor the use of virgin materials in construction over recycled ones, such as in piping.

Source: Charles Oliver, "The Government's War on Recycling," Investor's Business Daily, December 5, 1995.


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