ARG-021

The following appeared in a memorandum written by the chairperson of the West Egg Town Council.

"Two years ago, consultants predicted that West Egg's landfill, which is used for garbage disposal, would be completely filled within five years. During the past two years, however, the town's residents have been recycling twice as much material as they did in previous years. Next month the amount of recycled material—which includes paper, plastic, and metal—should further increase, since charges for pickup of other household garbage will double. Furthermore, over 90 percent of the respondents to a recent survey said that they would do more recycling in the future. Because of our town's strong commitment to recycling, the available space in our landfill should last for considerably longer than predicted."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


In this memo, the chairperson of the West Egg Town Council suggests that their landfill’s availability for garbage disposal will last longer than the consultants predicted two years ago because of the town’s strong commitment to recycling as well as the declining amount of garbage need to be disposed. In order to support this conclusion, the author cites that in the recent two years, the residents have been recycling twice as much materials as they did in previous time. And since the charge for picking up household garbage will double, the amount of recycling including paper, plastic and metal will further increase in next month. Moreover, a recent survey shows that 90% of the respondents are willing to do more recycling in the future. Despite those pieces of evidence, close examination of the chairperson’s line of reasoning reveals several problems. Therefore, we need more specific evidence to determine whether such an argument is logical and the author’s prediction can be fulfilled.


Firstly, the author cites data indicating that residents’ recycling amount in recent two years has doubled compared to previous years. However, knowing only the relative change, we cannot sufficiently conclude that the amount of garbage need to be disposed has been decreased as consequence, because it remains unclear whether total amount of garbage has increased, decreased, or been stable. Therefore, what we need to know is the amount garbage that was disposed in recent years. If new evidence indicates that the amount of disposed garbage was actually on the rise, then the demand for landfill would increase as a result. On the contrary, if the increasing engagement in recycling led to a reduction of the disposed garbage, then the data is supportive of the author’s view.


Moreover, the author cites a recent survey showing that over 90 percent of the respondents would like to recycle more materials in the future. However, there are several potential issues with this survey. First, the validity of a survey is highly related to both the sample size and their representativeness. Therefore, we need to know the total number of respondents and how they were selected. If the sample size is too small, or if the respondents saying that they will recycle more in the future are those who already done a good job in recycling, then the author’s standpoint will be weaken. But if this survey is large in scale and respondents randomly-selected, then it will strengthen what the author concludes. Secondly, we also need to be aware that people’s will may not fully translate to their action in real life. Therefore, if the respondents will do as they wished in the future, it will help to enhance the author’s view.


Lastly, granted that the amount of garbage to be disposed by West Egg residents will decline, we still need to consider whether the available space in the landfill will last longer because the household garbage only counts as part of the total garbage amount that a city may create. In other words, the garbage need to be disposed in the landfill might also come from other resources like companies and factories. Therefore, if evidence indeed shows that large amount of garbage needs disposing are produced from companies, and since a lot of companies’ consciousness of recycling is weak, or they do not have efficient recycling regulations, they might create even more garbage in the future, draining up the landfill space fast. In this case, the author’s suggestion will be weakened as a result. However, if we are informed that West Egg landfill primarily receives household garbage, then the author’s argument will carry more weight.


To sum up, while it may be possible that the landfill can be used longer than consultants predicted, the chairperson does not convincingly present evidence to support its claim. We still need more evidence to evaluate it in an objective way.


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