Article Evaluation Sample Solution

Article Evaluation – Sample Solution

Meets Clarity:

“But cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years, and it’s still the easiest and cheapest solution for trash.”

Explanation: This statement meets clarity because it is clear what time he is referring to (most of human history), it is clear that he is referring to digging holes and burying garbage underground, and “easy and cheap” are terms that most people are familiar with (although cheap is not precise, it is clear he means the least expensive solution for getting rid of trash).  

Does Not Meet Clarity:

“Yes, it’s popular in affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope in Brooklyn and in cities like San Francisco, but residents of the Bronx and Houston don’t have the same fervor for sorting garbage in their spare time…”

Explanation: He fails to provide additional details as to the differences between Brooklyn/San Francisco and Bronx/Houston. What exactly does he mean by affluent? Needs to use clearer language- fervor is emotive and someone can be positively or negatively fervent about an issue.

(This quote also does not meet fairness, as it groups people together by location and attributes the same beliefs about recycling to them based on their location).

Meets Accuracy:

“The national rate of recycling rose during the 1990s to 25 percent, meeting the goal set by an EPA official, J. Winston Porter. He advised state officials that no more than about 35% of the nation’s trash was worth recycling, but some ignored him and set goals of 50% or higher. Most of those goals were never met and the national rate has been stuck around 34% in recent years.”

Explanation: This example meets accuracy because it provides facts, that when checked, are true. Specifically, I verified that the national rate of 34% is true.

Does Not Meet Accuracy:

“If you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling.”

Explanation: The author fails to meet my standard for accuracy here because based on an internet search; there is no overall federal (US) requirement for all people to recycle. States and cities may pass and work to enforce regulations, but surely there are people within the US (babies, people who live in rural areas with no trash/recycling services) who do not recycle (He does add the word probably, which softens the claim, and gives him a bit of an out, but overall this statement isn’t a true fact).

Meets Precision:

“Once you exclude paper products and metals, the total annual savings in the United States from recycling everything else in municipal trash-plastics, glass, food, yard trimmings, textiles, rubber, leather-is only two-tenths of one percent of America’s carbon footprint.”

Explanation: This statement gives a quantitative measurement to back up the point that not all recycled goods are benefiting out carbon footprint. It also specifies which items are low contributors to reducing the US’s carbon footprint.

Does Not Meet Precision:  

“Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill.”

Explanation: This quote does not quantify the amount. It states typically more expensive where an amount would be precise.


“That tax would offset the environmental costs, chiefly the greenhouse impact, and allow each municipality to make a guilt free choice based on local economics and its citizen’s wishes. The result, Kinnaman predicts, would be a lot less recycling than there is today.”

Explanation: In this quote, “a lot less recycling” is not precise. It needs to be stated quantitatively or at least compared to some other known measure.

Meets Relevance:

“It would take legions of garbage police to enforce a zero-­waste society”

Explanation: This quote is relevant because it speaks directly to the cost involved in trying to reach ever-increasing recycling goals. This article focuses on cost/benefit, so this quote about cost is relevant. (Although admittedly imprecise – what are legions?)

Does Not Meet Relevance:

The overall discussion of landfill space across the US as if there are no regional differences in this aspect.

Explanation: The discussion of landfill space compares New York City’s desire to stop sending waste to landfills with the availability of potential space in rural communities. Available grazing space in Idaho or Arkansas is somewhat irrelevant to the reality of garbage issues in New York City, where the volume of trash simply exceeds the available space within a reasonable distance. In order to take advantage of rural landfill space the city has to deal with immense transportation costs.


“It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins.”

Explanation: The author does not meet the standard when he compares religion to recycling. Wars have been fought over religious beliefs; I don’t think they would be fought over recycling beliefs. His statement is hyperbolic and irrelevant to the cost/benefit focus of the article.

Meets Depth:

“Even those statistics might be misleading. New York and other cities instruct people to rinse the bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, but the EPA’s lifecycle calculation doesn’t take than water into account. That single omission can make a big difference, according to Chris Goodall, the author of ‘How to Live a Low Carbon Life.’ Mr. Goodall calculates that if you wash plastic in water that was heated by coal derived electricity, then the net effect of your recycling could be more carbon in the atmosphere.”

And “According to EPA’s estimates, virtually all the greenhouse benefits-more that 90%- come from just a few materials: paper, cardboard and metals like the aluminum in soda cans. That’s because recycling one ton of metal or paper saves about three tons of carbon dioxide, a much bigger payoff than the other materials analyzed by EPA. Recycling one ton of plastic saves slightly more than one ton of carbon dioxide. A ton of food saves less than a ton. For glass, you have to recycle three tons in order to get about one ton of greenhouse benefit. Worst of all is yard waste: it takes 20 tons of it to save a single ton of carbon dioxide.”

Explanation: The author is able to demonstrate here that there are multiple factors to consider when asking someone to recycle glass. People sometimes use other resources when recycling.

He also points out that not all materials affect the environment in the same way, so the focus should be on a few types of goods rather than trying to recycle so much.

Does Not Meet Depth:

“But cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years, and it’s still the easiest and cheapest solution for trash.”

Explanation: This line of thinking fails to take into account geographical, cultural, or ethnic differences around the world. It doesn’t consider outside possibilities other than recycling and landfills. It doesn’t consider harmful health side effects that may in turn increase cost for governments and individuals. It also doesn’t take into account that technology and products have changed over thousands of years and we now have plastics and other items that might not belong in a landfill. He also doesn’t consider that there are new technologies for trash disposal, so burying might no longer be cheapest and easiest.

Meets Breadth:

“After New York city started sending food waste to be composted in Delaware, the unhappy neighbors of the composting plant successfully campaigned to shut it down last year.”

Explanation: This meets breadth by considering the views of other individuals who have an interest in the issue, namely people who are subject to the odors from composting.

Does Not Meet Breadth:

Overall article

Explanation: The author does not consider some the common reasons people choose to recycle (beyond CO2 impact and wanting to feel virtuous because they feel guilty). What about the common-sense viewpoint that glass bottles, aluminum cans, and monofilament fishing lines all take centuries to degrade in a landfill-so disposing of them merely buries the problem? Or the strategic viewpoint that recycling plastic reduces our dependence on foreign oil- of significance to our soldiers and military. Or the viewpoint of an environmentalist who just wants to avoid unnecessarily destroying wildlife habitat and contaminating rivers and lakes from excessive logging, mining and drilling.

The author also failed to achieve breadth because he takes a narrow economic approach to evaluating recycling in the US – looking at dollar costs/benefits and industry effects to the exclusion of other factors (environmental, sustainability, etc.)

Meets Logic:

“Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special interest politics is one reason-pressure from green groups-but it’s also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprints.”

Explanation: It makes sense that public officials would rally around and promote issues in which their constituents believe. Also, although not necessarily fair, it also makes sense that recycling is a feel-good opportunity for people who have large carbon footprints.

Does Not Meet Logic:

“The environmental benefits of recycling come chiefly from reducing the need to manufacture new products…” “As a labor-intensive activity, recycling is an increasingly expensive way to produce materials that are less and less valuable.” …which assures the public that recycling plastic bottles results in less carbon being released into the atmosphere…But how much difference does it make…To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s roundtrip flight between New York and London you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles…”

Explanation: The author states the first quote making the case that recycling has negative impact on jobs and manufacturing. He then seems to contradict this notion by stating the second quote. Though the source of the materials may be different, it does not follow that jobs and the need for manufacturing as a whole are decreased by recycling.

From the last quote, one can imply the author is refuting the claim of the benefits brought by recycling plastic bottles due to the actual enormous number needed to offset greenhouse impact. However, not all people fly long distances, and if each individual contributes to recycling, wouldn’t that still reduce the carbon footprint more than if no one recycled?

When speaking about the trash tax leading to less recycling – “The result, Dr. Kinnaman predicts, would be a lot less recycling than there is today.”

Explanation: This doesn’t meet logic because the author has spent much time saying how recycling behavior is tied to making people feel virtuous, and that recycling won’t easily be reduced. So even with a trash tax, it is unlikely that people will just stop recycling.

Meets Fairness:

“Nearly everyone, though, approves of one potential benefit of recycling: reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.” 

Explanation: This is a fair statement – it recognizes a common belief and a point on which most people can agree. It puts the author and those who question him on the same side in this respect.

Does Not Meet Fairness:

“(O)therwise well informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.” And “The future for recycling looks even worse. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps, and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish. ’If you believe recycling is good for the planet and we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront,’ says David P. Steiner, the chief executive officer of Waste Management, the largest recycler of household trash in the United States. ‘Trying to turn garbage into gold costs a lot more than expected.’”

Explanation: This over-generalization is not a fair assessment of what individuals committed to recycling may or may not know, and is flawed in its absolutism. For the second quote, this conclusion is biased and represents only the economic point of view of a recycler (and also the perceived thinking of the author) that recycling isn’t worth the cost. Including thinking of recycling protagonists with a reference to environmental benefits (i.e. greenhouse gas reduction) and the impact on generations that follow would improve fairness.

Meets Significance:

“’It makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, as well as selected metals and plastics,” he says. ‘But other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables. The zero-waste goal makes no sense at all-it’s very expensive with almost no real environmental benefit.’”

Explanation: The significance is justifiable from an economic standpoint.

And “Recycling has been relentlessly promoted as a goal in itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college. As a result, otherwise well informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.”

The consequence of being well informed throughout early life but not being educated on the costs of the recycling process is significant to one another.

Does Not Meet Significance:

“But cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years…”

Explanation: In considering the issues that the author has presented about recycling, the above sentence is not the most significant point to consider. Many things that happened in the past are not the best course of action for the future.

The author also focuses a great deal on carbon emissions and costs but very little on how recycling reduces the drain on natural resources, the latter of which seems to be a very significant part of the equation. He highlights cities with aggressive policies and the costs associated but fails to highlight any cities that seem to be striking a good balance between dumping everything in a landfill and going to zero waste.


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