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This Is No Laughing Matter

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One of my favorite cable TV stations is Comedy Central. Among the shows that I watch is “The Jim Jeffries Show.” I had it on the other day, but I wasn’t really watching because it was the time of day when everyone in my family is getting home from school or just finishing the work day and we were all engrossed in finding out what’s for dinner, who’s going to make it or who’s going to pick it up, who will clean up after dinner, and what are the plans for after dinner. Then, Jim Jeffries uttered a single word that caught my attention. Recycling.

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This Australian comedian who is a US citizen and now has his own television show was about to talk about recycling on Comedy Central. The global disruption of the recycling industry, something that you and I have been wrestling with since China announced its National Sword, has become such a large issue that it has grown beyond the realm of industry publications. After catching the attention of podcasts and webcasts, it moved on to the BBC and NPR. Cable news outlets have reported on it. I’ve seen it on HBO and CBS. And now it’s finally caught the attention of comedians.

As I said, this is no laughing matter. But I was curious to see what Jeffries had to say about the matter. I watched as he showed a solid working knowledge of the situation.

(This is typically where I would give you a piece of video to watch. The problem is that some of the jokes were extremely adult in nature and I decided not to post the actual video. I won’t even post a link to it. Instead, if and only if you think you can withstand some crass humor, you can go to YouTube and search “Jim Jeffries Recycling.” That should take you to the 5 minute and 49 second bit on recycling.)

Jeffries explains that in the face of an oncoming environmental apocalypse, he at least has recycling to make him feel better about trying to save the planet. It’s then revealed that America has recently been having a number of recycling issues including companies that were selling recyclables…are now paying to get rid of it. He moves on to his explainer on the China Waste Ban and says, “It’s not that we shouldn’t recycle, it’s just that we suck at it.” Jeffries also points out the irony that some of the biggest recycling companies are actually owned by landfill companies and questions the apparent conflict of interest. Other topics he highlights are the United States being behind European countries when it comes to recycling, the complicated rules of how and what to recycle, and Americans having a hard time with recycling because they mostly care about convenience.

Having someone point out a few of the major ironies of how we go about recycling shouldn’t cause us any distress. I believe we should be taking his words at face value and perhaps factor them into our oncoming plans to right this tilting ship of recycling. It’s not always easy to laugh at oneself. It can be a painful acknowledgment of our shortcomings. But a self-deprecating sense of humor can be a sign of maturity and seriousness, of growth and understanding. It can be a stimulus for us to figure a way out of this mess.

Again, if you’re going to find the video and watch it, be prepared for bad language and adult humor.  MSW_bug_web

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  1. Good article. I continue to be disappointed in the U.S. who should already be a global leader in recycling but continues to “suck at it” because its “inconvenient” or doesn’t operate at the right price point. With that said, I do find encouragement in the fact that we are trying and some are succeeding at finding innovative ways to manage the waste streams. Time to throw down the gloves and challenge the U.S. to find real solutions towards taking the trash out of the ground and putting it to work.

  2. There is a technology available that can solve the bulk of recycling in a clean environment process; paper, wood waste, sewage sludge, plastics and even purify aquifers that have been polluted by landfill seepage. But, it will cut into status quo recycling and landfill operators profits. And bureaucrats and politicians are either too beholding or too timid to do anything about it. They fervently declare they are not Columbus! And not for the human suffering allegedly spawned by Columbus, but because “they are afraid to be first”. So bold, so brave, … and so the problem continues.

    1. John Rex, I’m curious about the technology you refer to but don’t name. What is it specifically that you have in mind?


      1. Hi Paul,
        It is is a high temperature pyrolysis gasification technology producing gas similar to NG, NGLs, et al and inert char as which can be consumed in other products. If I may ask, what is your interest?
        John Rex

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