Oct 27

Why People Don’t Recycle More

Reasons Why People Don't Recycle

Why People Don’t Recycle

It always amazes me at how much effort and resources we consume obtaining resources, destroying our environment only to bury those same, refined materials as trash. It’s easy to foresee a future where we have to dig everything back up to re-use, expending even more energy. At least it will create jobs, right?

This article is to discuss the reasons why people and business don’t recycle and ways we can change that. Let’s get started.

It is Inconvenient to Recycle

Most people take the path of least resistance with their daily routine, constantly refining it to remove the inconveniences to become more productive. This practice is so popular that countless self help books have been written about the topic. People with enough money pay others to for their inconveniences, including trash removal. The condo I live in only picks up trash from a bin even though our city recycles, most apartments are the same way. Many rural areas do not recycle have limited recycling capabilities.

Overflowing Recycling Bin

Overflowing recycling bucket in Concord, New Hampshire – Photo Credit Robert Tanguay

When out in the public, there are only trash receptacles, if you can find them. While most can fight the urge to litter, few will carry around a plastic bottle to find a place to recycle. If you want to collect recyclables at your home to deposit yourself, it can start to take up quite a bit of space if you don’t go frequently.

Solutions – Make it easy for people to recycle. Increase collection of recycling to areas that do currently have it and make sorting less restrictive and to include more items. Have more recycling centers and pay people for their recycling. In California, you can exchange you plastic, glass and aluminum by the pound in the grocery store parking for a cash or store credit. It’s saved me many a time and is great idea.

No Incentive to Recycle

What’s in it for me to recycle? For many, a lot of hard work. It costs time and money to recycle instead of just throwing things in the trash. Without getting paid for their recycling or counting the potential savings on trash bag usage (I take joy in counting the pennies), one must rely on only the feel good promise that your recycling protects our environment. You pay for that that feeling, and for a large number of people, it’s not enough.

When you are done with a plastic or glass jar with residue, you should rinse it out with your water ($) and then store it separated in a bin which looks absolutely wonderful in your kitchen by the way. If you don’t want it to smell or grow mold, hot water works best while rinsing ($$), and please don’t for get to wash your hands ($).

If you are fortunate enough to have local recycling pickup, all you have to do is place your recycling outside once a week, sometimes as separate trip with multiple bins, then bring them all back after picking up the half bin of loose paper blown across your lawn. If you don’t have local pickup, you are probably building quite the collection in your basement to maximize your trip to the recycling center ($) halfway across town ($$). Once you get back, you can spend 15 minutes scrubbing the spilled liquids that paint your back seat or SUV trunk ($$), or just eat the 10 to 15% depreciation to your vehicles resale value your going green efforts rewarded you.

Solutions – Pay people for their recycling. Someone is making money off of it and it should be shared with the people and groups spending the efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. This would also create a service industry for people who don’t want to go through the efforts. It could fund charity. Raising the value of materials through and Emissions Tax would make it possible to pay a fair amount to create incentive to recycle.

Price of Source Materials is Low

If it costs more money to to recycle a material such as paper, plastic or metal, it is not a good financial move to pay for the incorporation of the recycled materials into new product. When environmental damage is externalized from the balance sheets of corporations or governments, we all pay for that profit. We also gladly use that material in our businesses and consumer products. Kind of a catch twenty-two, isn’t it?

Recycled materials are not the highest of quality, and have to be refined. That cost is much less than pumping or mining it out of the earth, and as long as the collection efforts are efficient, it can use much less energy to produce bottles containing recycled plastics, metals and glass. Because of the quality of recycled stock, it has to be mixed with fresh material to stabilize and replenish components lost during the recycling process.

Solutions – Promote value added services such as emission reduction that will spur innovation in polluting industries and consumer products. This will allow material prices to remain high due to their environmental friendliness and not through means such as artificial scarcity.

An Emissions Tax is the Real Solution

Digging up new materials uses a lot of energy, and destroys the local environment in the process. Burying it uses up land, energy and releases quite a bit of pollution in the process.

We need to incentivize removing recyclable materials out of the waste stream. By pricing emissions through an Emissions Tax, costs of mining new materials will make recycling a much more attractive option compared to burying it and paying a tax for the toxins emitting from it.

It will become more economical for waste management groups and industry to sort, recycle and repurpose waste in efforts to reduce their emission liabilities. If prices go up for raw materials and recycling costs go down as they tend to historically, it may become profitable to go dig up and sort through past garbage deposits. It is already being done in 3rd world counties, but usually unregulated and highly polluting (burning plastic off wires to get to copper, ect).

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About The Author

I'm an Environmental Lobbyist, Writer, and Founder of EmissionsTax.org. Let's talk Environmental Policy and work to promote renewable energy, conservation, green technologies and most importantly, a more equitable economy worldwide.