Recycling 101: A Political Issue?

It seems these days that no issue can be in front of the public for much longer than a couple of days without becoming politicized. When a celebrity is caught up in a scandal, is it the politicians’ fault for letting moral standards slip? When a company goes bust, could the politicians have prevented it by taxing them less, or subsidising them at a key point? It is no surprise, then, that for many people the environment and recycling have become a political issue.

There are some senses in which partisan considerations drive one’s views on the environment. Recycling programs cost money to create, and need to be done at a municipal level. This means that they will be funded from taxes, and someone who makes tax a primary concern may well argue that they are being taxed for no good reason.

On the other hand, recycling does have an impact on the environment, and the environment is one thing which is very clearly communal – we need to share the world with other people. So if we are polluting, we aren’t doing our best by our fellow people. Recycling is also a social issue.

There are political parties in most countries set up with the environment as a primary concern. Although they certainly have policies in all the other areas, they will be pigeonholed as being solely concerned with the environment, and one side will accuse them of being socialists while the other calls them conservatives. It is sometimes better to divorce the political aspect from your environmental attitudes, because it seems to be a distraction as much as anything.