Jews today should have little difficulty appreciating the importance of bal tashchit. The recycling revolution has even made it politically correct. The problem is that preventing waste is so incredibly inconvenient. This may be the best argument for its revival. Inconvenience means we have to go out of our way, be self-sacrificing, sweat. To uphold bal tashchit, we have to do nothing less than raise our consciousness about how we treat our world. If we achieve this, and learn to preserve the priceless jewels around us, we stand a greater chance of realizing our potential as righteous partners in creation.
Yes, recycling is a big deal in the Jewish community, as well as in the community at large. It's a terrible thing not to recycle paper. On the other hand, human potential is not such a terrible thing to waste. Used paper and glass bottles are more important - they increase political leverage because it looks good to be a recycler.
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