I am an environmentalist. I care deeply about this planet, about keeping it clean and habitable for eons to come.
That is why I never, ever recycle.
You heard me. I never recycle. Ever. I throw everything in the trash.
Discarded mail — I throw it in the trash. Empty soda and soup cans — I throw it in the trash. Cardboard boxes — I throw it in the trash. Tissue paper — I wipe the jizz off my chest, and throw it in the trash. Aluminum foil, milk bottles, glass jars, newspapers, magazines…anything that could be recycled, I throw it in the trash.
Why, you might ask? For one simple reason: recycling is bad for the environment. You heard me: it’s bad for the environment. If you care about the well-being of this planet, about all the life it supports, about the balance of all its fragile ecosystems — then you’ll stop recycling as well.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “That doesn’t make any sense! Recycling is good for the environment; you’re just being selfish!” Actually, it’s the other way round: it’s the people who do recycle that are being selfish. And in the process, they’re destroying the environment.
You probably still don’t get what I’m talking about, so let me explain. Whatever we throw into the garbage ends up in a landfill. You know, a big hole in the ground. Well…that’s where all this stuff came from in the first place! From the earth! Paper, aluminum, iron, glass, ceramic, copper, textiles — all of it was extracted from the earth. Putting all this stuff back into landfills isn’t bad for the environment: this stuff is the environment! We’re just putting it back where it came from. What’s wrong with that?
I know what you’re thinking: ‘what about plastic?’ Although some plastics do indeed occur in nature, most are synthetic, and most are produced from petrochemicals. Well, big fuckin’ deal. So we put plastic into the earth; you think the earth can’t handle it? There are animals that live at the bottom of the ocean, right on top of the thermal vents that separate the continental plates, where the temperature is 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pressure is 1,000 times that of the surface. There are animals that can survive in outer space. And we think putting plastic into the earth is going to present a challenge? Give me a break! We’ve already discovered some species of microbe that can eat plastic; and I’d say they’re going to do real well in the coming centuries.
So putting all our trash back into the earth isn’t bad for the environment; it’s bad for us. We’re the ones busy consuming all this crap, to the tune of 71 million tons of paper, a hundred billion plastic bags, 5 million tons of aluminum a year, and a billion barrels of oil a day. And that’s just in this country! If we put all this shit back into the ground, we’ll just have to pull it all out again. It’s inconvenient!
Which brings me to my point: Trash isn’t bad for the environment; we are.
Humans are the most destructive creatures ever to inhabit this planet, by a factor of a fuckload. That’s not even up for debate. When you size up all the damage we do to this planet, putting a few plastic bottles into a landfill is about the least of our offenses. The more we recycle, the longer our species will be around to abuse the planet and kill its inhabitants. On the other hand, the sooner we bid the planet adieu, the quicker nature can absorb and adapt to the damage we’ve done, and restore balance. That, my environmentally-conscious friends, is why I don’t recycle: because I care about the environment.
That’s also why recycling is an inherently selfish act. You’re not putting that newspaper in the recycling bin so it can be returned and reintegrated into the earth; you’re doing it so it can be trucked off to some processing plant, where it’ll be turned into your toilet paper. Or your greeting card. That aluminum foil you recycled is just going to get shipped off and turned into your Spaghettios can. It always has to be about you, doesn’t it?
The more militant a person is about recycling, the more selfish they are. Like people who sort their garbage and then wash it. And they have three color-coded recycling bins in their kitchen. And they keep a compost heap out in the backyard. These people are obviously so proud of what they’re doing! They’re such great people for taking all this time and trouble to conserve our resources! They’re saving the world, aren’t they? Self-righteous fuckrudders. You want to help the environment? Next time the recycling truck comes by, throw yourself in. It’ll certainly make the air cleaner, considering these are the same people who shower once a week because it saves water.
Who the fuck do we think we’re kidding? Between 2000 and 2008, renewable energy consumption went up 20%. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Until you hear that fossil fuel consumption went up by 25% during the same time period. Coal consumption went up by almost 40%. And renewable energy is a smaller percentage of the total than it was in 2000.
For chrissake, America is about to become the world’s top oil-producing nation on the planet! Every year it’s the same story: climate scientists scream that if we don’t make drastic changes in our energy consumption right away, climate change will spiral out of control and the human race will be in grave peril — and this time they’re really serious. And every year those warnings are ignored, nothing changes, and climate change continues to accelerate.
Where’s the leadership here? Oh, I know Obama made some candy-ass pronouncements on reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy. Every now and then a world leader promises “to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by the year 2050,” or “by 2085, 30% of our energy use will come from cow farts,” or some such shit. Bold stuff!
And you notice that they never talk about now. It’s never, “This year, we’re gonna do something”; it’s always “by the year 2072,” or some far-off date by which they’ll be safely six-feet under, and their grandchildren will be collecting on their trust fund. Well, we should start holding these politicians accountable: get a group together to start recording all these promises, and if they don’t come true, our grandchildren will find their grandchildren and grind them into mulch. Then let’s see if they keep making these grandiose, totally meaningless pronouncements.
The truth is, there will be no “by 2085.” We’re digging our own graves, and we know it. Despite knowing it, we’re digging faster and faster. In fact, we recently switched from a steam shovel to a militarized Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, and we’ll soon be switching to low-yield nuclear explosives. Recycling some newspapers and aluminum cans is like throwing the dirt back by the handful. Or one of those little Fisher Price shovels. Doesn’t mean a goddamn thing.
So what is the point of recycling? As far as reversing the harm we’re doing to the environment, it’s about as effective as putting a Band-Aid on a severed head. So what is the purpose? It’s so people can feel good about themselves; so they can feel noble and self-righteous. That’s right, it’s purely ego-driven. The idea is, if you simply throw your cans and bottles into the recycling bin, you are immediately absolved of all responsibility for the devastation we, collectively, are causing. It allows you to say, “Look, I’m doing my part! I’m saving the planet!” And boy, doesn’t it make you feel superior to people like me, who don’t recycle? “What a barbarian! Doesn’t even recycle! It’s people like you that are ruining everything!” Know what I say? Good.
You know what? You’re not doing your part. Tossing a Lipton Cup-o-Soup can in the recycling bin — and then leaving your air-conditioned house to get into your Ford Excursion and drive down to the lake, where you spray aerosol sunscreen and bug repellent all over your pasty, repulsive body, then take out the jetskis and spend the afternoon belching rocket fuel into the lake — does not constitute doing your part. I’ll wager that the people who are most fervent about recycling do more on average to damage the environment than people who don’t recycle. At least in this country, where you’re considered un-American if you don’t own at least five gas-powered vehicles.
So recycling is nothing but a feel-good exercise. It’s a way for individuals to feel vindicated of our collective guilt. It’s the same bullshit exercise we go through when we go to confession:
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“OK, what did you do?
“I raped a kid.”
“Funny, so did I! Well, God forgives you.”
“Phew, that’s a relief!”
Yes, maybe it is, but…you still raped a kid. Just because you don’t feel guilty doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty. We call that self-delusion. That’s exactly what recycling is: self-delusion.
Especially in this country! We’re not number one at much anymore, but we’ve gotta be the best at deluding ourselves! You know who has a real recycling program? Sweden. Their recycling program is very simple: all garbage is recycled as heat. That’s right; every scrap, every can, every bottle gets tossed in the furnace. And you know what? About a year ago, I read a news story about Sweden having a peculiar problem: they had run out of garbage! You heard me right; they had no more garbage. Since heat is a pretty valuable commodity in those parts, you have to figure this recycling program is pretty effective. But it gets even better: other countries were actually paying Sweden to take their garbage for recycling. In other words, other countries were essentially paying Sweden’s heating bill! That, my friends, is a goddamn recycling program. If this country did something like that, I might actually get behind it.
But we don’t, do we? No, we dick around: “Number 2 plastic goes in this bin; number 3 plastic goes in that bin; aluminum cans go in this bin; aluminum foil goes in that bin; all cans and bottles must be emptied and thoroughly rinsed!” Yeah, you know what needs to be emptied and thoroughly rinsed? My nuts. And then they send a fleet of trucks to collect this stuff and cart it all over the country. These newspapers will be made into toilet paper! This pizza box is going to be a greeting card! These cans are going to become land mines! YAAAAY!
Speaking of landmines, why don’t we recycle some of these dumbass tanks and jet fighters? Talk about a waste of natural resources! Bet we could build a lot of bridges and dams with that material, couldn’t we? How about we recycle an aircraft carrier or two? How many schools do you think we could build out of a recycled aircraft carrier? Or airports, or hospitals? You know — things we actually need. Here’s an idea: What if, instead of spending $700 billion a year on our war machine, we invested that much in clean, renewable energy? But we don’t build anymore. We destroy.
I know, that was a fanciful idea. But it goes back to the larger point: that when our government is wasting so many resources on this stupid shit, like stealth bombers, Apache helicopters, laser-guided bombs, and these video-game drone aircraft — that same government can then look at me with a straight face and lecture me on the importance of recycling my Fiji water bottle?
There’s another thing: Fiji water.
Just drop everything and let the ole’ gears turn on that for a second: instead of drinking our own filtered tap water, or buying water bottled locally, we buy water…water…that was bottled in Fiji, shipped five thousand miles back to the U.S., loaded onto trucks, then driven thousands of miles further all the fuck over the country, and unloaded at every local gas station. WATER! We’re not talking about some rare and wonderful fruit, or some exotic herb that cures genital warts: we’re talking about two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. In Minnesota — the Land of Ten Thousand fucking Lakes! — people buy water from Fiji.
“Let me tell you, Bill: you haven’t experienced hydrogen and oxygen until you’ve had this stuff! It’s that spin they put on the second hydrogen atom; gives it that je ne se qua.”
But the important thing is that when you’re done with your Fiji water, you recycle the bottle. That’s right: it took 87 people, 360 work hours, 42 gallons of gasoline, and 5,800 kilowatt-hours of electricity to ship this bottle of water 11,000 miles to my local gas station — and people drink it, toss it into the recycling bin, and think “Boy, I did my part!” And then they glare at me when I pitch my newspaper in the garbage.
Tell you what, Urban Outfitters: when you’re done being a smug little shithead, go home and try making your own water! Dig up the old family recipe; you know, the stuff grandma used to make. It’s not hard: only takes a couple ingredients, and as long as you remember to turn it over halfway, you should be fine. If you’re looking for that designer yuppie water, go online and look up Rachael Ray’s recipe. I’m sure Emeril’s got one too, if you want to ‘kick it up a notch.’ I think his recipe calls for browning it on both sides and then basting it with a little dark matter — so be prepared to make an evening of it.
By now, you should understand what I meant when I said recycling is pointless. It’s a drop in the ocean; an empty gesture; tokenism of the highest order. Like when the Republican Party picked a black person to head the Republican National Committee: nice gesture — but didn’t change the fact that they’re a bunch of racist assholes. And considering all they do to oppress black people in this country, it’s more condescending than anything else. Same thing with recycling. We rape, pillage, perforate, defile, and pollute the earth every day, to a degree that boggles the imagination. And then we put out a few solar panels, windmills, and recycling bins, as if to say to Nature, “Look, we’re trying, okay?” Again, condescending.
That’s the ultimate conceit, of course: that we actually have any sort of dominion over Nature. Oh, one can’t deny we’ve achieved an awful lot: we can heat and cool our homes; we can dam rivers and lakes; we can propel ourselves across the land at amazing speeds; and we can propel ourselves into the air, to the bottom of the ocean, and even into outer space. We’ve short-circuited the entire food chain, and we hold entire species hostage — billions of individuals — subject to our voracious appetite. We’ve doubled or even tripled our natural life expectancy, and conquered some of the most hideous diseases. And we’ve built bombs that harness the most primal energy of the universe; bombs capable of vaporizing enormous swaths of land instantly. We’ve accomplished a lot, no doubt about it.
But compared to what Nature can do, we still cut a pretty pathetic figure. When she wants to, she can toss us around like a rag doll. A single hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs. Remember that horrific tsunami that hit Indonesia and the Philippines in 2004? That was caused by an earthquake that released an energy 550 million times greater than the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima. And that was Nature yawning and taking a leisurely swat. A quarter million people, dead. She took out a couple million of us with a single flood in China. And if you want an example that hits a little closer to home, how about Hurricane Katrina? We might think we own this planet; but every once in a while, Nature slaps us around a little bit, and reminds us that we’re still only renting.
That’s the real recycling program going on here. We’re not recycling; we’re being recycled. If there’s one word that describes Nature, it’s ‘balance.’ And there’s no doubt that humankind has dreadfully upset the balance. And nature always finds a way to restore it. When dinosaurs were getting a little too far out in front, she dropped a big fuckin’ asteroid on them! Wiped them all out. And 65 million years had to pass before another species became a little too ‘uppity.’ That would be us.
So how is Nature restoring the balance this time? Well first of all, She’s changing the earth’s climate, and pretty soon things are going to get pretty toasty for us. She’s inventing new and deadlier germs faster than we can find cures for them. She revealed to us the secret of nuclear weapons, and now she’s letting them spread all over the planet — knowing full well that all it takes is one psychopath getting his hands on one bomb, and it’s game, set, match for Humanity. Pretty soon she’ll stop giving up that precious oil we’ve come to depend on for so much, knowing that without it, civilization as we know it will collapse. And who knows? If she gets impatient, she might just drop another big fuckin’ asteroid on us. Could happen tomorrow. That’s nature, tossing us in the recycling bin.
So if you care about this planet, and all the life on it, you’ll do exactly as I do: stop recycling. It’s a pointless, empty gesture that accomplishes nothing except boosting the ego of those who do it. All the recycled milk cartons and Pop-Tart boxes aren’t going to change the fact that we are completely, ineluctably fucked. And besides, the milk cartons and Pop-Tart boxes aren’t the problem: we’re the problem. And the sooner we go away for good, the better for the planet.
So I say, dump all your garbage in the street. Fuck it. Leave all your lights on when you leave the house. Open the windows and blast the heat or the A/C. Leave your car running 24/7. Buy a jet-ski and just leave it idling in the water. In fact, just go fill up a gas can and dump it in the lake. Buy a bunch of aerosol cans and walk down the street spraying them into the air! Let’s go out in style!
Keep a big pile of coal burning in your fireplace — even though it’s the middle of summer. Trade in your Prius for a Hummer. Then drive it around town, throwing rocks at people’s solar panels. On trash day, walk around the neighborhood and empty the contents of every recycling bin into the regular trash! Find a tanker truck marked “Hazardous Waste” and open the valve. Let that shit spill everywhere. Let’s go out with a bang!
If humankind had any grace, we’d just decide that the year 2100 will be it for us. After 2050, no more reproduction will be allowed to take place. No new humans! And we’ll just party out the century, burning coal and oil to our hearts’ content, and wallowing in all the radioactive sludge we want. And then we’ll pack it in. Look at it this way: we’re packing it in one way or another. The only difference will be how we choose to spend that time.
We’re like Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad.’ We’re a terminally-ill species: do we want to spend our remaining time putting up solar panels and recycling back issues of Juggs? If so, then our demise will be slow and agonizing. Or do we break bad, accept our fate, and cap off our short but turbulent existence with a final ‘fuck you!’ to Nature, in which case her justice will be swift and spectacular?
I’m here for the show, man! I say we break bad! Fuck recycling.