Recycling Paper Products Kills More Trees Than It Saves

By Joey Caso | United States

Recycling kills trees. Although this seems like an argument that would be presented by a Kremlin-paid troll, the economics of why this happens is clear and sound.

Firstly, one must ask, “who has the greatest incentive to keep the tree population up in a market-based economy?” It would be quite evident that it would be someone who relies on trees to make a profit. Well, what is the largest industry that relies on trees? The paper industry. This seems to be a pretty simple series of mental steps yet nobody seems to take them, or even worse than that, nobody wants to.

See, we are raised to look at the corporation and the capitalist that runs it with utter contempt. Don’t believe me? How about the Lorax, a book so popular that in 2012 it was ranked 33 on the School Library Journal’s survey about the “Top 100 Picture Books”. What is this book about? A greedy capitalist who destroys the environment to make a profit.

Let’s dissect this. The Once-ler made a product called a Thneed which he made from the Truffula tree. In order to do so, he cuts down the Truffula trees to make his versatile garment until he cuts down the very last one. Then his once-booming business comes to a dramatic end. Now, this is supposed to demonstrate that you should not be greedy, and impressionable kids fell for it, me being one of them. But upon reflection you realize the Once-ler wasn’t greedy, he was just plain dumb.

If he was truly greedy and had half of a brain, he would have replanted trees at the same rate at which he cut them down. To give time for the Truffula trees to grow he would have needed to slow down the process of cutting them down in order to create a continuous loop of resources and with it, a continuous loop of profit. One might say, “The Once-ler’s Thneeds were in such high demand that he needed to cut down Truffula trees at a fast rate.” Well, what would slow down the rate at which he needed to require his resources? A rise in the price of a Thneed. Raising the price would have decreased the demand of the Thneed while creating a larger profit for the Once-ler, who already has a resource creation and collection set up that will supply him with a profit forever until there is no demand for it. That is real greed. That is rational greed. That is capitalism.

Now just like the Once-ler paper industries want that infinite loop of resources and profit. This means just as the food industry wants to keep the population of chickens and cows up and just as the trophy hunting industry wants to keep the population of endangered species up, the paper industry wants to keep the population of trees up.

Now, what force helps to destroy the paper industry? Recycling, specifically the recycling of paper-based products. With the reuse of the paper, the paper industry loses demand for its products. If recycling happened in mass the demand for paper would plummet and along with it the industry that had a profit incentive to save trees.

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