Question

In a certain rural area, people normally dispose of household garbage by burning it. Burning household garbage releases toxic chemicals known as dioxins. New conservation regulations will require a major reduction in packaging—specifically, paper and cardboard packaging—for products sold in the area. Since such packaging materials contain dioxins, one result of the implementation of the new regulations will surely be a reduction in dioxin pollution in the area.

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

In a certain rural area, people normally dispose of household garbage by burning it.

People usually burn garbage.

Burning household garbage releases toxic chemicals known as dioxins.

Burning garbage releases dioxins.

New conservation regulations will require a major reduction in packaging—specifically, paper and cardboard packaging—for products sold in the area.

New regulations will require a significant reduction in paper and cardboard packaging. (we do not know yet the relation between garbage and paper and cardboard packaging.)

Since such packaging materials contain dioxins, one result of the implementation of the new regulations will surely be a reduction in dioxin pollution in the area.

Packaging contains dioxins. Thus, implementing the regulations will reduce dioxin pollution. (The author clearly assumes that paper and cardboard packaging materials are burned as garbage.)

Gist: People burn garbage. Burning garbage releases dioxins. Certain packaging materials contain dioxins. Soon regulations will require a major reduction in these packaging materials (support). Once the regulations are implemented, dioxin pollution will reduce (conclusion).

The Gap

The argument has multiple gaps. 

Firstly, as discussed above, the author assumes that ‘paper and cardboard packaging material’ is a part of the ‘garbage’ and is usually eliminated by burning.

Next, how will the regulation impact packaging? What if people start using more harmful (higher dioxin content) packaging materials to handle the regulations?

Also, the argument assumes that burning the packaging materials contributed to dioxin pollution. What if burning the packaging materials did not, somehow, release dioxins in the first place? Maybe, some property of paper or cardboard leads to this.

The Goal

The goal is to find a reason why dioxin pollution may not be reduced. We could highlight one of the gaps discussed above. There could, as usual, be more gaps as well.

The Evaluation

(A) CorrectThe option says that some dioxins get destroyed when the garbage being burned contains large quantities of packaging materials. The heat could destroy a higher quantity of dioxins than contained in the packaging material. Thus, a fire containing less paper and cardboard could possibly release more dioxins than a fire with large quantities of the packaging materials. Thus the conclusion ‘implementing the regulations will reduce dioxin pollution’ gets weakened.

We do understand that ‘some portion’ could signify a portion smaller than contributed by the paper and cardboard themselves. Or, it could signify a proportion that compensates for all the packaging materials, and then some. So, while we cannot say for sure that dioxin pollution will not reduce, we can certainly begin to doubt the conclusion of the argument. That is all we need to achieve in order to weaken an argument.

(B) IncorrectThis option tells us that the packaging materials have a low density (weight/volume). That on its own does nothing to weaken the argument. There is nothing in the argument to link dioxin pollution with either weight or volume of garbage. Irrespective of the density, if the quantity of paper and cardboard is reduced, it does appear that dioxin pollution will reduce.

(C) Incorrect. The conclusion of the argument is that the implementation of the new regulations will reduce dioxin pollution in ‘the  area’. How quantities of packaging materials sold in urban areas compare with quantities sold in rural areas does not at all help weaken the argument for one particular rural area.

(D) Incorrect. The motivation behind the regulations is irrelevant. Implementing the regulations will lead to lower dioxin pollution is what we need to weaken. Why the regulations are put into place is immaterial. For example: your reason for getting a good GMAT score may just be to impress your girlfriend. However, our concern is whether a good score will lead to admission in a b-school.

(E) IncorrectThe argument is about the amount of dioxin pollution. Whether dioxins have adverse effects, or whether the adverse effects are known is irrelevant. 

Additional Notes

The correct answer choice here, as is quite often the case, does not necessarily destroy the argument. It just lays doubt on the conclusion. That is exactly what ‘weaken’ means. We just need to weaken the argument – i.e. make the argument weaker than before. We do not need to destroy it.

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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