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2016 Essay Contest: Is Punishment the Best Way to Promote Recycling?3rd Place

Nowadays, environmental problems are one of the most serious issues in our society. Owing largely to indiscriminate disposal of garbage, the Earth is in danger now. In terms of disposal of waste, one thing that humans can do in order to save the Earth is to recycle. Recycling itself will play an important role in preventing waste from being landfilled or incinerated. If waste is landfilled or incinerated, it will do great harm to the Earth. For instance, if waste is disposed of by the way of incineration, it will release a significant amount of detrimental substances into the air, resulting in the climate change. Moreover, as a result of high dependence on landfill in waste disposal, the capacity of the Earth is now being outstripped by the amount of the waste being landfilled. That is why EU is setting a tougher level of recycling. However, not only do many people regard recycling in daily life as trivial but also they think that recycling has little influence on saving the Earth. Yet, when we individually practice recycling with sincerity, it can benefit the Earth beyond our imagination. Therefore, it is of great importance to promote recycling. People have two options when they dispose waste: to recycle or not to recycle. It is often suggested that punishment is the only way which can promote recycling. However, I firmly believe that punishment along with reward will boost people’s intention of recycling.

To begin with, when it comes to recycling, the case of Korea and Switzerland should be considered. Korea is second to none in recycling rate, and Switzerland ranks high in recycling rate as well. Korea and Switzerland are known for the strict punishment for those who do not recycle. In Switzerland, a heavy fine is incurred to the individuals when they throw away household waste in an inappropriate way. For example, according to an article from The Local, a 57-year-old man, Dufour, was fined $275 after PET bottles were found in a bag which should have been filled with paper.[1] When he had no choice but to face the punishment, he had two choices: to pay a fine of $275 or to spend two days in prison. This article shows how strict the punishment is in Switzerland. This severity of punishment can also be shown in Korea. It may, however, differ from city to city: Normally people have to pay from ₩100 thousand at least to one billion won at most if they throw away waste without proper recycling. Recycle regulation in Korea is strict not only in regards to punishment fee but also in criteria. Koreans must comply with strict and complex recycling criteria. Some of the Koreans complain about strict recycling criteria as follows: “I had to pay ₩100 thousand for not recycling properly. The reason for paying the punishment fee was that there was “ramyeon soup powder” pack in the trash bag. Don’t you think the criteria are too high?”[2] Many other people also complain about the strict recycling criteria. From the case of Switzerland and Korea where the recycling rate is the highest, we can see how strict the recycling regulation are. Considering the living costs and minimum wages in both countries, the punishment fee for not recycling is high enough to make people eagerly participate in recycling in daily lives. It could be, therefore, said that strict punishment is certainly a core reason for the high recycling rate in both Korea and Switzerland.

Secondly, I would like to deal with the case of Indonesia, one of the low-recycling rated countries. I lived in Indonesia for about nine years and therefore I know for certain how recycling regulations are enforced in Indonesia. What people see for the first time when they arrive at Seokarno-Hatta International Airport is the sight of people throwing away waste wherever they want to. It is needless to say that people in Indonesia have no intention of sacrificing their time for recycling. For the nine years of staying in Indonesia, I have seldom, if ever, seen public trash bins located nearby, not to speak of recycling bin. The situation of household practice is no better than the situation of streets. The population of Indonesia already exceeds two hundred million, which ranks 5th in the world. That is to say, the fast population growth brings about the increase of waste generation. However, the present level of recycling in Indonesia is only around eight percent. This statistics shows that Indonesia lags far behind the world in recycling. The reason that people do not participate in recycling is clear. Since people are not punished for throwing away waste due to the absence of strict law, they are just doing it. The case of Indonesia is a suitable example which shows that no punishment or relaxed punishment result in a low recycling rate. Therefore, we should, under no circumstances, underestimate the importance of punishment. However, I do not think that we should just stick to punishment by any means. Next, I would like to deal with some places where factors other than punishment helped the recycling rate to increase.

Thirdly, it is necessary to see the recycling policies of some states in the Unites States. Chicago adopted what we call “incentive-based recycling” system. In 2009, the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, made an announcement that the Blue Cart recycling program would be initiated.[3] Blue Cart system is practiced under the Recycling Bank program, which utilizes incentives or rewards in order to enhance recycling. Recycling bank encourages households to recycle as much as they can by providing them with rewards based on the amount of waste recycled. Blue carts system was named as such because the term “blue carts” refers to the carts that weigh stuff. The blue carts measure the amount of the recyclables and convert the amount into Recycle Bank Points which people can redeem for rewards, gift cards, groceries, and products. The specific merits that people get from the Recycle Bank Points are as such: discounts of the products, gift cards, online gift codes, gift certificates, and products such as t-shirts, cookbooks, movie tickets, or toys. The recycling rate of Chicago approximately reaches 60%, which is higher than average recycling rate. Taking blue carts system and the recycling rate of Chicago into consideration, it can be concluded that the incentive-based recycling system is effective.

Chicago is not the only state that operates incentive-based recycling system. Including Hollywood, and Michigan, a number of American states and cities adopted incentive-based system to boost recycling rate. For example, Michigan, and California have “bottle-bill” program through which people can get money by taking used cans and bottles to recycling center. People get five cents per bottle as a refund. This bottle-bill system is also operated in Hawaii and other places. The incentive-based recycling system has an important implication in that it particularly appeals to the lower-income households. According to the UK Shadow chancellor, George Osborne, “while the poorest households were previously the least likely to recycle, as soon as they start receiving a financial incentive for recycling, they typically become amongst the most likely households to recycle.”[4] Rewarding those who recycle properly can, as Osborne mentioned, be an effective way because getting rewards or incentives can directly benefit lower-income households. If people can get products such as daily necessities just by recycling properly, they will be inclined to recycle. Therefore, many developing countries including Nigeria and Lagos in which a number of low-income residents live adopted incentive-based recycling system.

To sum up, many different cities have their own regulations and policies to increase the recycling rate. Contrary to the typical belief that punishing whoever do not recycle properly is the best option, rewarding seems to be another method which can be used. When combined together, punishment and rewarding will, without any doubt, boost people’s intention of recycling. Rather than just sticking to punishment, many cities or many countries should take rewarding option into consideration. To be more specific, whether to recycle properly or not is entirely determined by individuals, and it is vital to consider the mind of the individuals. Therefore, whether to use punishment or rewarding should be based on various situations which individuals are put into. Especially in developing countries where many of the people are less likely to recycle, punishment itself will not work effectively as they are going to keep dumping trash without being caught. Particularly, low-income households whose main concerns are making-ends-meet are not likely to care about the environmental problems. To make them recycle, rewarding is the very option. Just as some children are more motivated to study when they are given rewards for the action, so can rewarding make people recycle. Only when we all together recycle for the well-being of the Earth, can we pass the clean and healthy Earth down to our progeny.

<References>

[1] 이병희 (2014), “종량제봉투에 라면스프 봉지 버렸다고 과태료 물리는 서울시”, Chosun.com

http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2015/07/19/2015071900809.html

[2] Christine Escobar (2009), “Recycle More, Earn Stuff: Incentive-Based Recycling Comes to Chicago”, Huffpost Chicago

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-escobar/recycle-more-earn-stuff-i_b_249517.html[3] Dawn Marshallsay (2011), “Recycling Incentives: Which is Best, the Carrot or the Stick?”,

Eco health

http://www.ecohearth.com/eco-zine/green-issues/876-recycling-incentives-which-is-best-the- carrot-or-the-stick.html

[4] Malcolm Curtis(2013), “ I faced prison for plastic in wrong recycling bag”, The Local

http://www.thelocal.ch/20131203/i-faced-prison-for-plastic-in-a-paper-recycling-bag


[1] “I faced prison for plastic in wrong recycling bag.” The Local.

http://www.thelocal.ch/20131203/i-faced-prison-for-plastic-in-a-paper-recycling-bag

[2]Chosun.Com. http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2015/07/19/2015071900809.html

[3] “Recycle more, Earn Stuff: Incentive-Based Recycling Comes to Chicago.” Huffpost Chicago

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-escobar/recycle-more-earn-stuff-i_b_249517.html

[4] “Recycling Incentives: Which is best, the Carrot or the Stick?” Ecohealth

http://www.ecohearth.com/eco-zine/green-issues/876-recycling-incentives-which-is-best-the-carrot-or-the-stick.html

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