On MPR's website for discussion of issues, Insight Now, I admitted how lousy I am at recycling. It just seems to be a low priority for me.Hennepin County is looking at mandatory measures to improve recycling rates there. Other counties are worse (check out the last pages of the 2008 SCORE report). Minnesotans apparently recycle cans and bottles at a 35 percent rate, far below the 80 percent goal set by the state's Pollution Control Agency.
So we asked the community at Insight Now just how people ought to be encouraged to be better recyclers. By government intervention? Neighborly peer pressure? I figured many would talk about the need to stir one's environmental conscience.
Instead commenters said that we seem to have maxed out on what environmental peer pressure can do. Instead, we need to look at making the economic arguments stronger.
Mary Warner of Little Falls wrote that businesses have to be more involved in recycling:
"...(A)nd that's only going to happen if the economics of the situation work. It's either got to save them big bucks or make them big bucks."
But when the recycling free market flounders, as it did in 2008 then business has far less incentive to get in the game.
Someone else in the discussion thread aimed more at the consumer, saying that if you recycle but don't buy recycled goods, you are only doing half of your part. But some goods made from recycled products are more expensive. And then you are appealing to something more than what makes sense as a shopper.
The thought here must be, the more you buy, the more demand you create. And that will bring down prices.
Demand also seems to be the economic argument made by the Recycle More Minnesota program. This time, however, the organization wants you to add more to the recycling stream to boost employment. The program, a collaboration between the Recycling Association of Minnesota and the state Pollution Control Agency, says 20,000 jobs are supported by recycling.
You would think that might get a laggard like me to sort those bottles, cans and newspapers more.
Insight Now just posted a number of other perspectives on how to increase recycling in Minnesota. Have a look and join the conversation.
Posted at 5:20 PM on July 16, 2010
by Chris Farrell
Eventually, the recovery will bring down the unemplpyment rate are incomes will start growing again. Problem is, the job and income effect of the great recession and anemic recovery will linger for years for many people.
For example, take young college graduates. It's been a tough job market for them. Studies suggest that the impact of entering the job market when unemployment is high can significantly depress their lifetime income. They get stuck for years in jobs that don't pay well and aren't commensurate with their education and abilities. Employers may also look at job applicants with spells of under-and-unemployment as damaged goods. The effects compound over time as poor job prospects and low incomes leads to less savings and lower rates of homeownership, and so on, in a vicious circle.
The financial trauma is also acute at the other end of the age spectrum. Considering the plunge in the stock market it isn't surprising that the incomes of those near retirement or in retirement suffer. But a sharp decline in the stock market in the years leading up to retirement is behind a modest cut in investment income a decade or so later. The impact is mainly confined to those in the top third of the income distribution. It's the slice of the population most likely to have a pension plan and own stock market assets.
The much bigger trauma from a downturn is on lower income households. No, they aren't typically shareholders. But a high unemployment rate around the time of retirement encourages many to apply for early Social Security benefits. You can apply for Social Security at age 62 and get a reduced benefit or get your full benefit if you wait until your full retirement age of 66. When jobs are scarce low income households often need the income from Social Security.
In Recessions, Reeling Markets, and Retiree Well-being, economists Courtney Coile and Phillip Levine of Wellesley College emphasize that it's mostly people in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution that feel the pressure to apply. They estimate that an unemployed worker experiences roughly a 20 percent drip in their Social Security income. Their results suggest that "the problems that low-income older workers face when the labor market weakest are of greater concern than the problems that upper-income older workers when equity markets plunge," they write.
The effects of this bad economic climate will reverberate for years. But the biggest impact has been on low-income households and workers. The turn to Social Security early is just one more sign how difficult the economy has become for everyone except the well-off.