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GRE Argument Essay: West Egg Recycling - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: '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.'
To begin with, the author claims that the increase in the amount of recycling material implies that the landfill should last for considerably longer. To test the veracity of this claim, the first evidence we need to evaluate the argument is whether the increase in the amount of recycling material is due to the fact that people start to recycle more materials or due to the number of residents who live in this area having increased. If it is shown that the increase in the amount of recycling material is because there are more new residents moving into this area, then, the amount of recycling material increases while the total amount of garbage increases, too. If this is the case, the available space in the landfill should last shorter instead of longer, and the author's claim is weakened.
In addition, the author implies that increasing charges for pickup of other household garbage can help increase the amount of recycling material, and decreases the amount of other garbages. To test this implied link, we need evidence about whether increasing the charges for pickup of other household garbage can significantly increase the amount of recycling material or not. It is possible that many residents do not care about increasing charges for pickup of other household garbage. It is not clear how residents will respond to the policy of increasing charges. If many residents show that they do not care about increased charges for pickup of other household garbage, then, the amount of recycling material would not increase significantly, and the prediction the the landfill should last longer would be invalid.
Last but not least, even if the author provides a survey to support his or her argument, we still need evidence about how conclusive this survey is, in other words, whether the survey can present the residents in West Egg Town area. It is possible the sample population of the survey is not large enough, or the majority of participants are proponents of recycling material. If these alternative possibilities are proven to be true, then, the result of survey does not reflect the will of the majority of residents, further, the survey would not be able to effectively support the author’s argument.
To sum up, in order to evaluate the author’s conclusion, we need evidence about whether the increase in the amount of recycling material is due to the fact that people start to recycle more or not, whether increasing charges for other garbage pickup can effectively encourage people to recycle more or not, and if the survey is representative.
I'm a bit unsure about your first argument because the memo states "the town's residents have been recycling twice as much material as they did in previous years," which normally would be read to suggest that residents are in fact, on average, recycling twice as much material as before, whereas you apparently read it to suggest that the total amount of material being recycled has doubled. But since that kind of statement would normally be based on looking at the total amount of recycled material, there is some ambiguity (one would expect population growth to be taken into account, but one never knows). I would recommend explicitly noting the fact of such ambiguity before proceeding (i.e., you shouldn't just assume that the statement doesn't really mean what it appears to mean).
In the next paragraph, you do a relatively poor job of specifying the kind of evidence that would help one determine what one wants to determine here. The issues with respect to the efficacy of increasing the cost of disposing garbage are 1) whether doubling that cost would place a sufficiently large burden on residents that they would be inclined to change their habits (so the relevant evidence is the actual charge, not just its size relative to the old charge, and the economic well-being of the residents - since an increase of this kind is likely to be more impactful in poorer areas); and 2) whether it is possible in principle to recycle more (so the relevant evidence would be how much recyclable material is currently being disposed of with the garbage, and how many recyclable alternatives does the market provide for non-recyclable goods currently being bought by the residents).
What I've just pointed out is a fairly significant problem with more than one of your submitted essays, so it would be worthwhile to devote some attention to it. Again, you are required not only to explain what you want the evidence to show, but also to specify what specific evidence would actually show that. Best, EJ.