09 April 2011

What kind of shmit is this? State Senator Lasee on recycling

Earlier this week as I was driving to work listening to the radio, quite a luxury, I know, but what I heard nearly made me swallow my tongue and puke it up at the same time.

Frank Lasee, the Republican State Senator from De Pere, and Louis Molepske, Democratic State Assembly Representative from Stevens Point were guests on Joy Cardin's WPR morning show.  The topic up for discussion was the state budget as proposed by Governor Walker.  As you know, one item in the budget setup for the chopping block is the state subsidy of funding for recycling programs.

The question was raised whether cutting state subsidies for local recycling programs was a good idea.  Ms. Cardin asked Mr. Lasee whether he agreed with the cuts to state aid for recycling programs.

His answer, and this is real, this is not made up, is perfectly indicative of the nonsensical banter being directed at us from Madison.   Keep in mind that Gov. Walker has been didactically, pedantically, preaching about cutting the budget so our children will not have to solve the problems we keep kicking down the road.

Here's how State Senator Lasee responded to the question of recycling cuts: "We've been at this [recycling] for nearly twenty years now and we were supposed to have markets for it and it was supposed to to be able to pay for itself.  But, you know, disposing of a ton of recycled garbage, recycling garbage, costs dramatically more than it does to put it in a landfill.  And I look at these things and I think in 100 years or 500 years we're going to go back and brighter people are going to mine our landfills, pull this stuff back out and process it and reuse the things then.  Some things like glass turn back into sand.  I was just at the beach on vacation and we picked up pieces of glass that looked kind of nice and we're going to put them in our fish tank because they're turning back into sand.  And I think there is starting to be some evidence on the carbon print that recycling glass for instance is more than if you mine it and turn it into new glass." (Listen to the program here: http://www.wpr.org/webcasting/audioarchives_display.cfm?Code=jca&Repeats=yes&dispall=yes)

That just stuck with me all week because it seemed absolutely asinine.  Mr. Lasee would like us to be reassured that the jobs in the not-so-distant future will entail mining our landfills and recycling and reusing what we could be recycling and reusing now.  Mr. Lasee are you on LSD?  That doesn't make any sense.  This may very well be another symptom of the Capitalist Effect.  Although this apparent brilliant republican orator would have you believe that they are trying desperately to balance our budget for future generations, they really don't give a crap about future generations.  Our great grandkids can do the damn recycling and reusing for us because we just can't afford it.  So Mr. Lasee claims that it saves us money to postpone recycling and reusing.  I suppose the cost of mining for our garbage in the future and recycling it then will be far more cost effective than recycling it now.  Plus they'll be much smarter in the future - compared to Mr. Lasee.  If we followed Mr. Lasee's advice, in the long run it will cost us more money because we'll need to create more landfills.  In the short term, Mr Lasee may profit from some lobbyist group who doesn't want recycling to continue (limestone mining company?).  And, in the not-so-distant future we'll have more junk to clean up.  Has anyone seen Wall-E?

The Capitalist Effect is epitomized by greed, avarice, and pure selfishness.  Mr. Lasee's response has nothing to do with what is most beneficial for humankind or Wisconsin, but it has everything to do with monetary greed and a short sighted view of the economy.   In essence he is saying, don't worry about the effects on our environment.  It's all about the money.  

Okay, let's say we're willing to buy that tripe about our brighter descendants effectively using our trash.  The second part (sometimes it's best to just stop talking even if it's in the middle of a sentence) of Mr. Lasee's answer seemed to be complete balderdash.  Does glass naturally turn back into sand?  That seemed preposterous.  

Consider this, in order to turn sand into glass the process requires a mixture of silica, soda, and lime, perhaps other minerals depending on any desired effects, such as fog, tint, color, etc. heated to 1800° F (982° Celsius) at which point it melts.  The melted mixture can then be poured into molds or blown, nudge nudge, and cooled.  So I asked a local chemistry professor about the idea of reversing this procedure and turning glass back into sand.  Dr. Dasgupta explained that although a strong reaction was taking place in the heating of the mixture it may not necessarily mean that a chemical reaction is taking place.  Okay, that's great but what about changing it back into sand.  

"Well that's much more difficult.  It is not likely to turn back into silica sand on its own, sitting in the water or on the beach.  It will wear away slowly and eventually decompose over a few thousand years, and gradually become smoother."  Here he paused to laugh.  "I laugh because in the interim glass is quite dangerous to ingest."

Did he say over a few thousand years?  "Sure, modern mixtures for glass are heated and fused together.  It will eventually breakdown but it could take many thousand years."

In fact it would take 4000 years.  I checked with local recycling plants about the breakdown of modern glass.   A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose and even longer if it's in a landfill because landfills are designed so as not to allow the contents to be exposed to air.  Scientists have reported finding intact banana peels buried in landfills that had been closed for decades. 

Some other key facts about recycling glass: the energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.  

Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that is made.  If recycled glass is substituted for half of the raw materials, the waste is cut by more than 80%.

It seems that either State Senator Lasee has been misinformed about the carbon imprint of recycling, is trying to bamboozle us, or has his head up his ass and can't get enough fresh air to think straight.

What the shmit do you think?  Does Mr. Lasee have his head up his ass?


  1. hey, you should cite/footnote some of the facts you got up there.

    But, I wonder how someone so ignorant could have any clout with voters. My first question would have been what qualifies him to make such a statement - the fact that he is putting beach glass in his fish tank? So, should we put all the broken glass in the world in the sea or on the beach so it can wear away quicker? It's a shame really.

    Maybe we should give him some mercury to take home and play with?

  2. It came up that Lasee shoots for sound bites to entice voters to side with him. I think the thinking nowadays is that very few people read a whole article. There may be substantive information within the body of the article that often contradicts the title of the piece. In today's publications, headlines are typically constructed by editors with little to no input from the author of the piece. Journalists will often find their stories distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented by the title of the article.