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I saw the following question. It is puzzling not because of the grammar, but the meaning of 'need':

In the past we threw a lot of our kitchen waste away, but today many itmes such as plastic bottles and newspapers _______.

There are only two possible choices, one being "are recycled" and the other "need recycling", but the answer given is "are recycled". Does anyone know why "need recycling" is incorrect, or is it really incorrect at all? Some people say 'need recycling" is illogical here, because such items as bottles probabably also needed recycling before. But I was wondering whether 'need recycling' can be justified by the fact that the need stems from the law.

I'd appreciate your help.

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    The "but" calls for a contrast (with the preceding clause which describes the historical state of affairs) and "are" provides such contrast; "need" does not (it would describe the continuation of the historical state of affairs, not a change). – Dan Bron Nov 5 '14 at 23:47
  • Good question. I have no idea, apart from a very silly one ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 6 '14 at 1:11
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I would say are recycled. I don’t know why you would use need here.

The logic says: The main verb in the first clause is threw. Moreover, the second clause begins with but. So, as a reader, I will expect a contrary clause to what is said. In this sentence, the contrary of threw. So are recycled is the best option.

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The word "need" in this context has ambiguous implications. Is the need due to some ecological disaster, or the desires of the populace?

Using "are" removes this baggage, and makes it a simple statement of fact.

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