Question

The recycling of municipal solid waste is widely seen as an environmentally preferable alternative to the prevailing practices of incineration and of dumping in landfills. Recycling is profitable, as the recycling programs already in operation demonstrate. A state legislator proposes that communities should therefore be required to adopt recycling and to reach the target of recycling 50 percent of all solid waste within 5 years.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously calls into question the advisability of implementing the proposal?

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

The Story

The recycling of municipal solid waste is widely seen as an environmentally preferable alternative to the prevailing practices of incineration and of dumping in landfills.

The statement is talking about a widely held current notion in solid waste management. Recycling is considered environmentally better than incineration and dumping. (“is widely seen as” – such wording hints that the author might not agree with this view.)

Recycling is profitable, as the recycling programs already in operation demonstrate.

Recycling is profitable. (The author, so far, seems to be making a case for recycling. He doesn’t compare the profitability of the two alternatives. Our speculation above that the author might go on to disagree with the widely held view turned out to not hold in this case.) 

A state legislator proposes that communities should therefore be required to adopt recycling and to reach the target of recycling 50 percent of all solid waste within 5 years.

 A legislator proposes that communities should adopt recycling, and within 5 years, recycle 50% of their solid waste. 

Gist: 

A legislator proposes that recycling should be made more prevalent for solid waste management. Communities should be required to recycle 50% of all solid waste within 5 years. 

Why?

  1. Recycling is widely seen as environmentally preferable to its alternatives
  2. Recycling is profitable

The Gap

The legislator proposes the plan to manage solid waste in a more environment-friendly way. She assumes that there are no factors that might make recycling a worse alternative. What if there is some negative impact on the environment that makes recycling less favorable?

E.g., What if some environment-unfriendly toxins are present in certain solid wastes that can only be eliminated through incineration and not through recycling? 

The Goal

What might lead us to believe that implementing the proposal is not advisable? We considered one notion above. There could be other factors too that might make us doubt implementing the proposal. Right now we could think of one.

The Evaluation

(A) Incorrect.

The fact that existing programs are voluntary does not put a question on making recycling mandatory in all communities. In case recycling has merits, extending it to all communities should benefit the state. 

Within the volunteering communities, the ones that currently recycle less than 50%, the proposal will require them to recycle more – a good thing. In the ones that currently recycle more than 50%, there is no reason to believe that the voluntary programs will reduce recycling simply because a new requirement sets a low bar.

(B) Correct.

Let’s understand this option carefully. Existing programs have an upper limit. They have been restricted to 20% of solid waste. 20% of solid waste is what, after recycling, can match raw materials in quality and price. I.e., reprocessing additional solid waste would lead to a decline in quality, an increase in price, or both. Thus, if the communities are required to recycle more than 20% of solid waste, the additional reprocessed materials can have a negative impact on profitability. The profitability of recycling is one piece of evidence the legislator uses to support his proposal. If profitability is called into question, the advisability of implementing the proposal itself is called into question.

(C) Incorrect.

If the proposal is implemented, if anything, these difficulties will be alleviated since quantities will probably increase. So, if this answer choice were true, it would make even more sense to implement the proposal. This answer choice is in the opposite direction.

(D) Incorrect.

Recycling even these materials would likely still produce even lesser pollution. No reason not to recycle these materials. 

(E) Incorrect. Such materials perhaps go to landfills then. The option does not imply that a significant proportion of materials cannot be recycled, just that of the materials that cannot be recycled, many are difficult to incinerate. No clue how big a chunk such materials make. The proposal to recycle 50% in 5 years still holds as is.

Additional Notes

SC Notes:

  1. Do not get confused by the two uses of ‘that’ close to each other in option B. The usage is correct.
  2. The third line in the passage uses “should be required” following the verb “propose”, which would be expected to be followed by a subjunctive verb.
  3. Note how “with” prepositional phrase has been used at the end of a clause to present more information about the clause.
  4. Option B and option D use “when” followed by an adjective. Such usage is explained in this article: http://gmatwithcj.com/articles/the-although-misconception/
  5. Option C uses “have had”, which is the present perfect form of the verb “have”.

This solution was created by Anish Passi and Chiranjeev Singh.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

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