Why People Don’t Recycle

Photo: Dave Goodman

A lot of people just don’t recycle. While there may be a temptation to imagine them as conspiring Earth Haters who take orders directly from Skeletor, they are usually normal people who try to contribute positively to society in other ways.

They are members of our family, our neighbors and our friends. So what makes them choose to bypass the blue bin?

We investigated five individuals who do not regularly recycle. A better understanding of  their “why” can help proponents of recycling better understand the “how” of what can be done to increase participation.

Editor’s note: Names have been changed to encourage participants to be candid.

The twenty-something bachelor

Meet Matt, a recent business college graduate living in Utah. While adapting to his new job, Matt is also preparing to invest in his first home, not to mention finding a nice young lady with whom he can settle down. He gives five reasons for not recycling.

“My No. 1 reason is convenience – or should I say, inconvenience,” he says. “We don’t have a [curbside] recycling program where I live. You have to collect all of your items and then drive them to the middle of nowhere to drop them off. It takes too much extra effort.”

Storage is another barrier, especially for those living in multi-family housing, according to Matt.  “Where am I going to put all of that stuff? I don’t have a lot of extra space, and I don’t really want my garbage lying around my house while it builds up.”

Although convenience and storage are the main reasons Matt does not recycle, there are other factors, including confusing programs. During college, Matt lived in an apartment complex with a dumpster for recycables in the parking lot. Even though it made recycling more convenient, he didn’t use it because he didn’t know the “rules.”

“You can’t mix this plastic with that one. Cardboard is OK, but not that pizza box, even though it’s cardboard. Recyclers have their own language. It’s like a foreign country, and I don’t want to be a tourist there,” he says.

Matt also doesn’t like the philosophy of city-funded programs. “I’m sure that they pay for themselves to some degree, but I am annoyed that my tax dollars go to recycling programs,” he says. “If people are into recycling, they should do it on their own. It’s not government’s place to decide which causes I support.”

Matt’s final reason is an interesting insight for those trying to motivate their friends to get involved. The superior attitude of many pro-recyclers is an enormous turnoff.

“I wish they would just get off their high green horses,” he says. “Stop being snotty about it. Get your nose out of the air. Stop acting like you’re better than me because you recycle. It makes me want to throw something in the trash just to spite you.”

The thirty-something family guy

Darren is a family guy working for a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC. While his wife is more apt to recycle, Darren has a hard time making economic sense of it.

“I’m very skeptical of environmental claims because they are rarely economic,” he says.

Economically speaking, some recycling isn’t cost effective, he argues, citing plastic as an example of a controversial material while others are agreed to be cost-effective, such as aluminum cans.

“What I wish everyone would learn in Economics 101 is that there are trade-offs in life. There are both benefits and downsides to recycling,” Darren explains. “Individually, time is the most precious resource we use when we recycle. You could have done something else with that time used to recycle, and you can never get back spent time. On the city level, it’s time, effort and money. It is a question of whether recycling is the best use of that money, or if it would be better spent on education or health care. There are always trade-offs.”

But people differ in what they consider to be the best trade-off. “I think a lot of people recycle because it makes them feel good, and that’s fine. For me personally, I get no benefit from recycling, so I don’t’ do it,” he says.

Darren also says people don’t think about what resources will have to be used to recycle their product. He uses the examples of diapers. While many people are critical of plastic diapers, cleaning cloth diapers use water and energy, as well as requiring the use of chemicals that could eventually get back into the water supply.

“These are strong detergents, but you want a very clean diaper on your baby. What is the environmental thing to do?” he asks.

The sweet sixteen-ager

Jenny is an enthusiastic teenager who squeezed in a quick interview between lacrosse games. Her goal is to become a neurosurgeon. Jenny’s main reason for not recycling has a familiar ring: lack of convenience.

“I hardly ever recycle. If I actually find a recycling bin I do – it’s not like I hate the earth or something,” she says. “It would make a big difference if there was a program in my city.”

There is also not a strong program in Jenny’s school. Some classrooms have small bins for paper, but she says no one enforces actually using them.

Aside from a short lecture at the beginning of the year, there is not much talk about recycling on campus. None of Jenny’s friends recycles, either, and peer influence is especially powerful for teens. “It’s just not a big deal. No one really thinks about it,” she says.

The proud grandparents

With 18 grandchildren and one more on the way, James and Susan keep a full schedule, even though they’re partially retired. Before settling down in New Mexico, they lived all over the West. Their involvement in recycling has depended largely on the local programs available where they were living.

“Now I live in a state that doesn’t give you any incentive to recycle, so I don’t usually do it,” James says.

Many years ago, the couple tried to get their kids excited about recycling. Over the course of about a year, the family worked together to fill a large garbage sack full of crushed cans. The plan was to turn them in and use the money for a fun family activity. But the local company paid out very little for the cans, and the total was only $3.50 – a great disappointment to the kids especially.

“We had saved religiously, but the payout was terrible,” James remembers. “That was the last time I ever tried to recycle. It barely paid for my gasoline to get down there.”

“Without a good program that pays a nickle or dime per can, your only incentive is your guilty conscience. But not everyone feels guilty about not recycling. Until states get behind it and make it more worthwhile, a lot of people just won’t do it,” James says.

Susan agrees. “Even if you’re not an environmentalist, you can be an economist and recycle if there are money incentives,” she says.

Having to store recyclables for a long amount of time if you don’t have a curbside program can also be very dirty, Susan points out.  “We had ants and it was all stinky when we tried to save up those cans, even when we tried to wash everything out.”

A curbside recycling program would make an enormous difference, James adds.

“The way recycling is set up around here, the burden falls on the recycler, not the company doing the recycling,” he says. “I’m not going to take that pop can and drive it around town searching for a recycling bin, but if they pick it up from me without charge, that’s a different story.”

What we learned

One reoccurring barrier was the lack of convenience for those who do not have a curbside program. In the words of Susan, “I’d certainly separate my trash if I could just roll it out to be picked up every week for free. I think everyone would.”

The message is that we still have a long way to go in expanding curbside programs to everyone. Facilitating discussion about local recycling programs will put pressure on cities to offer such programs. Those who live in a city without curbside recycling can be more vocal with local leaders.

More visibility of recycling campaigns (especially online) could increase excitement among teenagers, many of whom, according to Jenny, are simply disconnected from recycling. It is important not to ignore this crowd, as they will be the decision-makers in the future.

A final action an individual can take is to check personal behavior to make sure he or she is contributing to recycling’s image in a positive way. Just as Matt pointed out, there is an attitude of superiority that other interviewees mentioned as well. Optimism and a friendly invitation to participate will sell better than guilt or social segregation, and excitement is the best tool for recruitment.

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  1. While I am in agreement that many US cities and small towns even do not make recycling convenient, my take on it is that “when there is a will, there is a way.” If you really want to recycle, you will take your bottle of water home with you and throw it in your blue bin. The problem is those areas that are lacking even blue bins…

    – Maurizio Maranghi –

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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  3. The recommended detergent for washing cloth diapers is the cheapest, simplest, least obnoxious detergent you can find. The others have brighteners and dyes and other junk that leave residue that is conducive to bacteria that turn urin into that aweful smell we all know and love.

  4. Ever heard the word lazy? Come on America…Matt you are going to be living in all of that trash, if you don’t watch what you are doing!

  5. may i suggest an incentive for the proud grandparents of 18 with another on the way? 18 grandchildren and another on the way. and for the family guy – how about his family? and for the twenty-something bachelor who’s looking for a nice young lady with whom to settle down – the child/children he’s most likely to want to have with that nice young lady. as for not knowing the rules, it does take effort, just like learnign the rules to baseball, basketball, etc. and, ultimately, it takes caring about the earth and her inhabitants whether they’re your children, grandchildren, or other human beings.

  6. Stupid, selfish, lazy! There is no excuse. I have to load my car up every couple of weeks and lug it down to the recycle center. I have two daughters..ages 4 and 2 and I do it. None of them had a valid excuse. They make me sick. Earth friendly choices are so simple. Americans need everything to be handed to them as soon as possible with as little effort as possible. Wake up before we are living on one big, toxic garbage dump. We’re already more than halfway there. I’m sure those 18 grandkids won’t appreciate it when there is a climate disaster…since I’m sure none of these people do anything else that might require them to get off their lazy asses and help the planet that they live on!

  7. Just one comment… everyone mentioned an aire of supriority and all the comments aobut laziness and not thinking about the children support this claim. Common, lots of people don’t recycle. Instead of calling them names or saying “think of your children,” try to think of a positive way to change people. Plus, not everyone who recycles actually likes doing it sometimes… haveing piles of stinky trash in the garage and playing trash can police at a party is not exactly my idea of fun. Instead, we should think of incentives other than the “feel goods.” Economically, this would be the money literally thrown away everyday by burying trash. Perhaps the actual incentives would be better if every town had pay as you throw and free curbside recycling. There is some real incentive!!

  8. Great article. Thanks for calling out real-life examples of challenges people face in recycling. I could agree more with your summary. Also, product companies and government bodies need to spend more time/effort on educating consumers about recycling. I’m going to post a link to this article on my blog http://www.ecoramblings.com. Thanks!

  9. One thing I don’t undertand is that garbage pick-up is free but you have to pay for recycle pick-up or load it up to take away yourself. I think this is why most people don’t recycle, but sometimes we have to go the extra mile.

  10. I choose not to recycle in my home due to space issues. We don’t use a lot of things we can recycle anyway except cardboard and paper, which is biodegradable anyway right? I rarely buy soda and we do keep those cans because in MO they have a resell value. There is no where close to drop off plastic, or glass.
    Well here is the bad part…. the guilt part for me….I work as a supervisor for a Sheltered Workshop in Missouri. These are non-profit organizations,that employ people with disabilities. Recycle centers are found to be a part of almost all of the 93 workshops in MO due to the simple operation of collection and processing. My facility takes cardboard, paper, clothing and textiles of cloth and leather, including shoes, and buys aluminum beverage cans. Part of our facility is also a thrift store, which reuses household, electronics, clothing and other goods. I figure I do my part for the effort in other ways, just by going to work in the morning.
    For those from MO that have restrictions, or have made the choice not to do in home recycling…. you can participate in other ways too. Volunteer at some place that does recycle or has a program for recycling. Your time and effort in the guise of a helping hand to someone elses effort makes just as big an impact as what you could collect to recycle at home.

  11. I am a conscientious recycler. I’m happy to sort my waste by type and will take empty bottles across the city via the subway to recycle them when I get home. With that said, Matt’s problem is spot on, and I don’t think he is to blame for this problem. We are to blame because we have not pushed recycling programs to be so simple that avoiding it takes more time than actually doing it.

    We’ve expanded recycling programs, and people still don’t do it. We guilt people for “ruining the Earth” and people still don’t do it. We haven’t learned anything. These methods have failed because it’s simpler just to throw things out than to figure out what materials comprise them. The thought process is simple: “Why should I sort out my waste? Waste is inherently something that I don’t need so why should I spend time working with things I don’t want or need anymore? My time here on Earth is finite and I’m already spending enough time at my work, trying to stay healthy, and taking care of my family then bothering to figure out if this plastic is #6 or #7.”

    Instead of fighting this mentality, we need to work with it. For example, I work with computers everyday. They make sense to me, and I know why things break and how to fix them—they just seem so obvious to me how they function. My friends and colleagues? They just want to surf the web and write an email, they don’t care about how computer works or how it should work, they just want it to work for them and that’s it. And you know what? They’re right! It’s the same thing as with cars, who cares what a carburetor or a camshaft does, I just want to get from Point A to Point B. Those who love cars will want to know what’s going on under the hood. We as adamant recyclers are like these car lovers: we care about what’s going on and want to act accordingly. Instead of fighting their mentality and shaking my head about them not taking the time to learn the rules of computing, I want to spend my career making computers fit their model of using them.

    Let’s apply this same strategy to recycling and fit their mentality: if it’s plastic, metal, or glass, throw it in this *one* bucket. We’ll haul it to the recycling center and use technology (that already exists, mind you) on our end to determine if its recyclable or not and recycle what is in fact recyclable.

    Yes, the notion of getting people to think about their actions is laudable, but we’ve tried, and we’ve failed. Using technology and conforming it how people view the world will provide easier, more effective solutions than trying to change behaviors on such a massive scale. Let’s stop blaming people and start acting instead.

  12. I was truly surprised by some of the responses that you got. Maybe I shouldnt have been, but I was. I guess what bothered me the most is that so much of it boiled down to economics. I have misjudged why people would want to do it I guess. I thought it was about personal excellence (in all things) and leaving each person, place, and thing better than you found it in the first place. I dont have kids or grandkids but principles makes me want to leave the world better than I found it for the next generations. I dont understand why we must be paid to do things and why it is always somebody else responsibility to give us some incentive. Like I said, I thought people knew that excellence and efforts make life more meaningful. It makes me sad to hear so many things boiled down to money incentives.


  14. Paper is recycled at the schools but glass, cans, electronics are harder to locate a site. When attempting to find local resources, I actually found a lot more that required mail ins and sites that were not updated . I wonder how profitable it is to open a recycling site? Just a thought. For now, I recycle paper, cans, plastic drink containers and bags. It is not convenient but doing a little is better than doing nothing.

  15. One thing that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize/think about is that the benefits of recycling are two fold. The first, and the most obvious, is that the waste goes somewhere other than landfill. In the US this isn’t necessarily a large concern anyways since the tipping fees associated with landfill are relatively low and we’re not space constrained. The second benefit, though, is that by recycling we reuse resources and thus do not cause further depletion of those resources or use energy to mine them.

  16. One of the problems of capitalism is that it does not account for all the costs of consumer products. So when you buy a plastic bottle of water, the price does not include the cost of disposal of the empty plastic bottle. One of the commenters says that trash pickup is “free”, which it is not. If you are a homeowner, you pay for city or county trash removal either in property taxes or a separate fee from local government. If you rent, you can be sure the cost of trash removal is included in calculation of your rent. Check with your local government about the cost of opening a new landfill (a sanitized word — they used to call it “the dump”!) and the difficulty in finding space for new landfills (no one wants it in their backyard). So one avenue to changing attitudes about recycling might be education about the real costs of not recycling.

  17. Hi Ashley,

    This article brings out some really good points. However, the benefits of recycling and reusing outweigh the convenience of just throwing everything away. Nobody wants a landfill to reside in “their backyards” because it contains garbage that is not only loaded with toxic chemicals and smells bad too. Recycling was initially implemented because of the problem of too much garbage being generated
    and not enough places to cart it off too.

    I think it just makes good sense to recycle to save the planet, the environment,
    and the wildlife that are also affected by our perpetual need for natural resources in such
    abundance. Thank you.

  18. Education is the key – if pictures of the Great (not!) pacific plastic patch were posted everywhere where people have the choice to recycle, I think humans would opt for re-use. Sensible recycling education should begin in elementary school, and continue through out a person’s life. I believe that most people are smart enough to recognize the need for recycling, they just need to be informed about the consequences of not adapting to re-use, and how that impacts future generations, including their great great grandchildren.

  19. They’re full of a bunch of BS excuses, but the real reason they won’t recycle is because they think the planet owes them. Those people make my blood boil.

  20. It is important to note that all garbage costs money to haul, and dispose of. This cost is high and increasing. It does make economic sense to divert as much trash as possible for reuse.

  21. I have been traveling between Europe and the USA for many years, I am still surprise that in the USA Recycling is not taught in school, but then again non-hybrid gardening and slow food are not either. It starts there. Trying to find excuses why they do not recycle are only excuses. To pay or not to pay, to give incentive or not to give incentive.
    Ethics and being accountable., that’s all.

  22. If more of the non-recyclers, especially the ones claiming econonmic reasons, knew the cost of construction and maintenance of a landfill, their hair would fall out!! Aside from constructing new roads, landfilling is by far the largest destination of tax dollars in public works in most jurisdictions. The idea of wasting all that space with recyclables, even if the market prices aren’t really covering the costs of rounding up each waste stream, should be enough to make any responsible taxpayer take the time and make the effort to recycle.

    With respect to the individuals cited in your article, I find them to all be pretty self-centered, lazy, and uninformed. Too bad about my superior attitude too. I live in a rural area without even trash collection, let alone recycling. I have made the investment in 8 96 gallon rolling toters just like what you city folks use. I bring my sorted materials 20 miles to town to recycle or dispose. Frankly when I see things like the Pacific gyre filled with a wad of crap the size of Texas, it really pisses me off. You people need to start taking a hard look at your lazy, ignorant way of life. Recycling provides us with a safer, cleaner planet; helps protect endangered ecosystems; provides thousands of jobs for individuals who are difficult to employ in more demanding jobs; prevents premature filling of precious landfill space; conserves resources like petrochemicals that we actually have better uses for than stupid grocery bags. Get with the program, and stop being part of the problem.

  23. Nina and Mary Jo, you are right on the money! Anyone who thinks that it doesn’t “pay” to recycle is living in blissful ignorance, to be blunt. From an operations manager’s perspective, there are always more hidden costs associated with an action than the vast majority of people realize. If we were able to wave a magic wand and one day, wake to see the actual true cost of everything we consume and discard, the arguments presented here would be non-existent. Of course, there would be new arguments to take their place, as Seretha alluded to..,

    Imagine this… your decision to not recycle the plastic that could be recycled and directed to a cement kiln will actually result in a small, but still present, increase in cement prices. Who pays for cement? We all do, through public works projects that are funded by our tax dollars. Tipping fees are all around us, and we are subject to those increases (which are also increasing due to the law of supply and demand) whether we understand that or not. Ahhh, and if we understood what impact an established INDUSTRY of recycling would have on prices of everything manufactured or grown… the cost avoidance (another element that many do not understand) would be enormous!

    Just because we don’t give thought to how we are being affected does not mean that we are not affected, but quite the opposite. I would be much more comfortable with someone saying, “I simply won’t recycle because I don’t want to comply” rather than hear someone say that it “doesn’t make economic sense”… The latter just shows a wealth of mis-information, and a wealth of apathy.

    One more important lesson I have learned as an operations manager is that it is easy, and worth little value, to point out shortcomings of an idea, project, or program… the hard work is correcting or addressing the shortcomings.

  24. For the diapers, use soap nuts to clean them. No chemicals, they actaully are used to help with contaminated soil, 4 nuts can be used 5-6 times, and you throw them in the composter when you are done. Fabric comes out scent free, softened without fabric softener, and you do not need the rinse cycle at all!

  25. You know, the attitudes of all these people boil down to one thing….selfishness. I’m sorry, I guess Matt might consider me to be “snotty,” but for crying out loud it’s not THAT hard. I live in a city with curbside pickup, but I have also personally witnessed the maintenance men in my building cart the recycling over to the dumpster across the street. So I load up my car each week and take what I can to the local center. It takes 10 minutes. So quit whining about “what’s in it for me?” people, and wake up to the face that WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

  26. Thank you Ashley for a well researched and well thought out article. This was good reading. I aggree with all of it that there isnt a lot of resources to help us recycle.

    As far as “enforcing” anything i can only say this..

    My mom in NY owns a 4 family house and they have GREEn as well as BLUE bins in front of the house.

    Now everyone who lives in this house uses them. When the garbage truck comes it’s followed by a POLICE car that sits there while the trash collector examines the trash. if there is anything that isnt supposed to be in the appropriate trash bin my parents get a $90 FINE because my parents own the house. My mom has to go thru the trash on a weekly basis to make sure the right trash is in the right place. With 3 other families this is hard to single out any one appartment in that building that is breaking the rules.

    How’s that for enforcement?

  27. I aggree with this article. I still think that the majority of the recycling needs to start at the top. That is that the corporations that create these plastics and other trash needs to stop making those hazardous materials and make biodegradeable items. Its not a perfect solution but at the rate we are going and at the rate that the pollution is destroying everything we need to do something along with consumer use and recycling.

  28. We’ve come a long way in 40 years here in a county of Pa. the size of the state of Rhode Island from having to clean and break glass to going “single stream” (almost). I think we need to keep our passions for the environment alive and be diligent in sharing the stewardship of the land, sea and air. It’s not a win or lose situation but one of pure life and sustainability.

  29. In my town, we have curbside programming. And also at our post office, we have bins that we can recycle our junk mail. I agree that paper has value. However, alot of people in this town don’t seem to care about recycling and alot of local politicians don’t seem to care. I personally think many media services as well as many radio & TV personalities should give people an encouragement to recycling & creating more recycling programs. I think that would work in the long run

  30. I have curbside recycling program and I have been using it pretty religiously. I had been keeping a separate container for all the milk and juice cartons as they are not allowed in the recycle bin. The other day, I found a recycling center for these cartons about 6-7 miles from my house. It was hard to find and there were constructions etc. so had to take a detour. Anyway, when I finally got there, they asked me to dump the cartons in the same bin as the “cardboards”. I told them that these were milk cartons and they had wax coatings on the inside but the people working there said, it didn’t matter and that they were still cardboard. It made me think if it was really worth for me to drive all the way over there just to dump my milk cartons in a pile of cardboard boxes? In the past, when I have called the city curbside program to ask about certain recyclable materials (such as leaving the cap on plastic bottles okay or not), they have given me very vague answers. They have said, it’s up to you, we collect everything and dump them at the recycling centers. It just shows that people working at these facilities as well as the city waste management places have very little knowledge of what is recyclable and what’s not. How are they to assist the public and them make aware? Even conscious citizens like myself who do want to recycle will end up throwing everything in the trash because they don’t get the right answers.

  31. Sorry all you smug, self-righteous, conscientious recyclers out there, bully for you, but, whether we like it or not, in this country, if something isn’t convenient, most folks just don’t want to be bothered with it. As for me, about the only things I recycle regularly are my aluminum soda cans (and that’s because I get money for doing it), and my plastic grocery bags. If recyling were made more convenient (and perhaps a bit more lucrative) you can bet many more people would do it. I know I would.

  32. I guess I am lucky. Once a week I drive to our recycling center [about 10 miles] I bring a large bag of garbage also [charge is $2 a bag. and I take all my recyables at the same time. Like anything else it is habit. I have three green bins in the garage [supplied by the township] each one has a small grocery bag one for aluminum one for tin 1 for plastic [1&2] & one for card board. There is also a clear glass and colored glass at the center. Arsole cans too It is all about it becoming a habit.

  33. Thank you so much for this article! I get so frustrated with people not recycling sometimes, that this really helped me put things in perspective. It’s true that most recycling is not convenient in many parts of the country. But sometimes it just takes one little extra step to make it more convenient – and those of us that are really invested in helping more people recycle can use this insight to help those extra steps happen. I go WAY out of my way to recycle above and beyond what is picked up curbside, but I know not everyone is going to do that. Education and efficient programming are key.

  34. Anyone who recycles is a victim of the government’s propaganda and shameless guilt of Western culture. The environmental movement is a conspiracy to control your every move- start with one seemingly innocent agenda that everyone could get behind, ahem Environmentalism, and with that power you can convince your followers to believe anything you want, act in anyway; this is especially easy considering all the extra money that will come in thanks to the increase in taxation Environmentalism causes.

    If you don’t want to live in 1984, think for yourself, don’t recycle and revolt against Green politics. Scaring innocent citizens and children into blindly following what corrupt scientists are spewing out is disgusting.

  35. Thank you for addressing such a growing problem for us Recyling enforcers. It all comes down to members of a community not being informed, and not being encouraged to recycle properly. I am facing the same battle at my college right now, almost single-handedly, and i still press on because it’s something I believe in. Americans need to start paying attention to the world around them and stop blaming their laziness on ignorance. True, this shouldn’t be on just personal recycling level, but county and corporate levels also, and thats where a little effort can make a long lasting impression. Keep up the great work all you dedicated recyclers! I know i will.

  36. I completely realize that recycling isn’t the absolute most cost effective thing ever… but when “Darren” talks about it the way he does, it makes me sick. I have a cousin who thinks along the same lines, but the thing they DON’T think about is all the land fill space that is being filled to the brim with tons and tons of stuff that could be put to better use than sitting there taking up land and stinking up the air. Why is it so hard to see that the land on earth isn’t something we get more of, yet the population keeps going up and up and up, which makes more and more waste? That one simple concept should hit some of these people like a ton of bricks, or perhaps a ton of “trash” that should have been recycled.

  37. I do my very best to recycle, but my township (and the surrounding townships); make it extremely difficult to recycle. They do this by limiting the recycling to the township that I live in. I can only take my recyclables to my township center, and not any other centers. Because I live in an extremely rural township, there is only one recycling center for the whole county, and that is an hour drive to get there, where everything needs to be sorted very meticulously (glass and all the colors, everything clean and uncapped, assorted papers, assorted metals, etc..). They also limit the amount that can be recycled by person, so that I can only take one, 30 gallon bag of recyclables in per week. I can’t even save up all the recyclables and make one truck load every so often. My wife and I crunched the numbers, and we spend so much on gasoline and our time to do this, that we’ve stopped because it’s costing us money, time, aggravation, and after a year of recycling, we’re done. We still try our best to do what we can to help the environment, but there are folks out there that want to, but don’t have the means to do it.

  38. Pingback: Cloth Diaper Blog. The All In One Cloth Diaper Resource. | Why Don’t YOU Recycle?

  39. Running a recycling is cheaper for most cities than garbage pick up. Not the whole program – i’m talking about the disposal and cost of the individual piece of trash. Most cities would rather it went into recycling instead of trash because the overall cost for disposing of that individual piece of trash will be less. When you talk about tax dollars going to waste, its the people who are throwing away recyclables who are wasting our tax dollars, by deliberately choosing the more expensive option under the guise of convenience.

    Also, with regard to cloth diapers, I’ll buy that argument that things are eventually getting into the water stream, when I start hearing about people cleaning off their disposable diapers before throwing them in the trash. Human waste should never go in the trash. Our waste-water systems are designed to deal with and mitigate human waste – if it is in a landfill it will eventually leach into the ground water. Also, if you do a comparison cost (water waste, energy to heat the water, etc.) cloth diapers still come out ahead in the overall resource usage.

  40. to anti-green. what a shame. seems like you prefer to keep your blinders on and blame it all on government control. hope you don’t wake up one day in a pile of your own garbage. for that matter, i hope that never happens to anyone. that’s what i recycle and reuse.

  41. From an environmental psychology point of view:

    It would be much better to focus on those that are recycling (rather than those that are not). If you are trying to build a new social norm of recycling, people will see this story as justifying their own actions (or lack of them ie no recycling). If those around you are making the effort to recycle, then it is a much more powerful motivator to change your own behaviour. People are social animals and want to fit in, so it is mopre effective to show others are “doing the right thing” and recycling. Social research on environmental behavour change shows time and time again that if others are going to the effort, then many others will tend to follow. I suggest you read Doug MacKenzie-Mohr’s book on this area (called “Community Based Social Marketing”). A lot of research done shows that if others are doing the right thing, many others will also start to shift their behaviours (even with barriers and strongly held habits). If people think that “most people don’t care” then they will feel justified in their own unsustainable actions. As an example, in one study, when signs were used in National Parks warning that many people were stealing from the park and it was wrong, they often followed suit (because the social norm was to do so). But when signs placed around the park suggested that most people know that it is wrong to take from the park, the amount of theft greatly reduced. The same effect was seen in hotels when signage was used to show most guests reuse their towels rather than threw them on the floor to be washed (as opposed to a sign that suggested that it would help the environment or save the hotel money so rates would be cheaper). See here for more:


    Social norms are a VERY POWERFUL motivator for many people. A lot of advertising pushes the idea that others are doing it and therfore so should you. Just think of those advertisements (e.g. for movies that say “number one box-office hit”) ie everyone else is seeing this! Perhaps a post on how people are recycling would have a greater behaviour effect than your current title. I hope this helps!

  42. I am an avid recycler. I have an issue with the guy who said that it bothers him that tax dollars go towards recycling programs because the government shouldn’t choose particular causes.

    I do not see efforts to sustain our environment, the place where we eat, breathe, sleep, work, play, and so forth as simply a cause, and an optional one at that.

    Many people who believe that the least government is the best government, and that philosophy would probably work well if people still had integrity and pride. However, many people do not have that uncompromising integrity that drives them to do things that are right even when they are neither economical or convenient.

    I lived and worked legally in South Korea for over 8 months, and I came to realize that no one understands the impacts of poor waste handling than the people who live or work in the busting-at-the-seams city of Seoul. The government mandates separation of waste into 3 main categories: recyclables, food waste and other. A person can actually get fined for mixing them. Instead of buying one’s choice in brand of trash bag at the store based upon price and features, a person must buy a trash bag from a store in her area that has that locality’s label. Different sized bags cost different amounts. In my area, white bags were regular trash. Recycling was handled by the security guy at my building (costing me nothing) and food waste went into special green bags. There were also prevalent light bulb recycling stations (for every size and type) and, throwing away electronics and batteries was illegal. The effort permeates even the food service industry. I’m not sure about any federal mandates, but restaurants steer clear of styrofoam and many other types of disposable containers that aren’t readily recyclable. While I’ve heard the argument that styrofoam requires such little energy to make that it is more economical than a recyclable product, if one has space issues such as S. Korea, the economy of it is no longer the issue. The many restaurants that deliver (via either motorcycle or scooter) tend to deliver the food in actual dishes that you would be served if eating at the establishment (usually porcelain). These then are left outside when the person has finished eating for the restaurant to pick up during the course of making other deliveries. Other restaurants have special packaging machines that are apparently more earth-friendly that seal a thin plastic layer to the top of a cardboard-like container (think frozen dinner). To say the least, I was very impressed with the national effort of both the government and the people of S. Korea. They really “own” their recycling efforts. The one problem I ran across while there was the lack of public bins for any kind of waste…even in a vast system of light rail, there was rarely a bin to be found, which led to littering.

  43. It’s a shame… Everytime I hear excuses about why not to recycle my stomach turns inside out… it is unforgivable the “reasons” why… they’re not reasons, they’re EXCUSES! cheap excuses. If people cares more about themselves and their families (for real) the story would be totally different. When you really want to do it, you just do it, you find the ways. I mail in all the recyclables that my local facilities do not take. it is usually out of state and I pay the mailing fees but is worth it. I just can’t believe that these people are real. the only sad thing is, all the damage they’re doing to the earth, the consequences won’t stop only on them, they will spread out to the rest of the human race… hunting us.

  44. Recycling has been a part of my existence for about 15 years now. It becomes the norm once you adopt it. I look at it like any waste disposal…it just happens to go in a different bin. In the end, all waste in a certain household takes up ‘x’ amount of space. Therefore, separating the recycling from disposable waste doesn’t create the need for more space, it’s creates the need for a smarter waste bin!

    The difficult thing is getting cities on board with offering recycling programs. My county actually requires waste disposal companies to offer recycling, but only 1 out of 5 does so!

    Throwing recyclables away is just lazy. Yes, to one persons point above, recycling takes time and energy, but until we have smarter containers in which to package all of our consumables, then we need to ‘suffer’ through this.

  45. Wow, after reading many of these posts I am afraid for the future. I live in Ontario. Fortunately in my area, we do have recycle at the curb using green and blue boxes. (paper, cans, plastics etc) I would still recycle whether we had this or not. I am dumbfounded at the attitude of people. This is everybody’s planet. Doesn’t anyone care about the future? Are you going to sit on your asses and wait till your government orders you to do it? Do you not think about the future generations? Your grandchildren? Get yourselves educated. Go online and google Germany and see how they recycle. They have been at that for years. People that recyle are not being smug…they are being smart and they care about what is going to happen to the next generation.

  46. I like cats and I don’t recycle at all and I never will it’s the worst thing that you can do. Just kidding I recycle all day long and I reduse, reuse, and recycle!!!!

  47. Wow. It is very disheartening to hear everything boiling down to convenience and money. None of these people interviewed related the quality of their water, air or surrounding environment to the mountains of garbage we produce every day. You need to have a picture of that island of trash floating somewhere in the Pacific. People only relate to what they see.

  48. I need advice on what to do about recycling a snowblower, old record player, hot plate stove, radio and a few other items. I am 76 years old and can not collect these items out of my basement and garage and I can not afford to pay someone to collect them and take them to a recycle station. What can I do?
    I do recycle my weekly papers,cans,bottles and etc. and I have points, but I don’t understand how to redeem my rewards, and how to pick out my rewards. FAQ doesn’t give me the answers. Please email me some answers that I can understand. Thank you.

  49. I live outside USA and that’s my reason for not recycling. I love my planet and try to post as much as possible about being vegan, not buying Procter&Gamble and helping shelter animals and stuff for protecting our planet from vandals. I live in Russia, see. And here no one cares about recycling. That’s the problem.

  50. Yo, a big reason why most people I know who do not recycle, is not being lazy or lack of curb-side pick up, ect. It is the fact that most of the stuff that we need to recycle, they make us pay for. we are severely reluctant to shell out $50 bucks just to get rid of one small computer part or drive (x) miles just to drop off a load.

    Its getting too expensive to recycle here. We live in a materialistic world and unfortunately when someone pinches the pocket book, one tends to not want to do a particular action. I have a bunch of computer parts, server rack, dell server systems ect. I cant afford to pay the 2000 plus dollars to recycle it. At lease if i hold onto it i may be able to find somewhere cheaper (like free or better: they pay me) or find a use for them.

    Anyone can complain to individuals to get them to recycle. Someone can try to do it themselves. but it will take Everyone to dig us out of this environmental grave. As long as there is a feral hunger for oil and material wealth, recycling will be difficult if not impossible….

  51. Wow people! That’s sooo sad! Lazy lazy lazy!!! Every city, town whatever should have a recycle collection day!! It is really stupid to not have one to me!

  52. hi!!! my boyfriend dosent recycle bcuz he dosent hav the time to worrie about recycling… im 17 and i live with my 18 yr old bo. I work and people just dont have the time to recycle anymore! (:


  53. Although people such as Matt in this article tick me off, I take their laziness as more drive. I have even decided to capitalize off of their laziness by creating a personal business where I go around to people who don’t have time to recycle, and I do it for them. For only 5 dollars a load (varies on items), I take it for them. Lots of people love it, and I get some money all while helping the earth!

  54. I enjoyed this article. It was titled “Why People Don’t Recycle” and that was exactly what it was about. Far too many writers seem to forget this is how it should be done, just print your facts and let the readers think for themselves. The participants were not belittled for their opinions and the readers weren’t led by the nose. Good job Ms.Schiller.

  55. We all need to do are part to recycle or we will wake up living next to a toxic land fill. Is this what people want to leave there children? Recycling isn’t about making a profit every time but doing the right and moral option but we do live in society where everything is disposable. People that are to lazy or just don’t care should really think about where there trash is going. The toxic landfills also have connections to one of the biggest killers in today which is cancer.

  56. We need to simply increase the cost of throwing something away. Then it will be to their economic advantage to recycle. Monetize the future liabilities of trash into disposal costs and we’ll be set. And who gets free trash pickup? Not where I live! Trash pickup costs more than recycling pickup in fact.

  57. Recycling is just a way of life for my family. My mother (80) and I (59) have recycled everyday for decades without feeling incovenienced. We are proud to be a part of our communities solution by taking part in the programs that exist locally. We drive to the hazmat centers 2-3 times a year to discard old medications, paints, electronics, and chemicals. Several times a year we go to our neighborhood recycle center to cash in on our 4 construction bags full of cans and bottles (glass & plastic). If we are too busy, we give the bags to a homeless person to cash in on the cans. What we have learned is that every recycle program is economically a sound investment in a community. It is a win-win situation. Yes, I do feel good–not smug–that we recycle. Financially, we benefit, our city benefits, the recycling companies benefit, and each company that buys the materials in my county and in California benefit. Fifty years ago I took soda pop bottles to the liquor store to get cash. I would then buy their candy and sell it to my friends on the weekend when my Dad turned the garage into a theater where the neighbor kids came to watch Popeye and Felix the Cat cartoons. It was a great way to keep kids in a familiar, safe, and fun environment. My Dad always got great pleasure out of repurposing things. I remember when he made sling shots out of wood scraps and he made trains out of tin cans and wood blocks for the kids in the neighborhood. Through our businesses and community out-reach programs, I’ve helped clean parks and beaches…it’s fun! As a Californian, just about everyone I know does recycle, so I never considered telling anyone that they should recycle. I guess you could say it’s our culture to take pride in our environment as often as we can. Californians understand how challenging and important it is to harness resources to improve the quality of life…and, that the benefits outway any efforts or inconvenience.

  58. Excellent article! I enjoyed the survey that was conducted as well. As a communicator for a recycling program in Ontario Canada, this feedback is so valuable in helping us direct our promotion and education efforts.

    Interesting comment by the 20 something bachelor – “I wish they would just get off their high green horses,” he says. “Stop being snotty about it. Get your nose out of the air. Stop acting like you’re better than me because you recycle. It makes me want to throw something in the trash just to spite you.”

    I can see how one could feel that way, and I think your final comments about checking your behavior and ensuring you are maintaining a positive image of recycling is key.

    Chances are, if someone doesn’t know how to recycle they may feel insecure about asking for help. Lets face it, I feel that way every time I go to the mechanics and I don’t understand what they’re talking about ; )

    Thanks again.


  59. hmmm.. there was some interesting insight in this article … it appears to me that the most common reason people aren’t recycling is because they are completely disassociated with their natural environment and seem to think that we can continue to extract materials from our planet forever and ever!! not to mention all the toxic materials we create that impact ecosystems and organisms (like humans), and the complete degradation of our planet (like landfills).. out of sight out of mind.. but that STUFF doesn’t disappear… sounds like these non-recyclers need to get back out in nature to (fingers and toes crossed) gain an appreciation of the planet that has been sustaining their unsustainable lifestyles…. and go back to grade 6 science class where you learn about the natural cycles of nature!

    for the love of yourself —- please give a sh@t!

  60. We love in area where they have single stream recycling which means every bit of recyclable material goes into one dumpster cart. Every 2 weeks it gets picked up and I promise you it is full to the top. Frequently our garbage dumpster is relatively empty compared to the recycling bin.
    If you have the means you should recycle. If you don’t find out you can become a recycler. It’s worth it and you will feel better about yourself rather than being an arrogant asshole. Save the planet or go fuck yourself should be the new green moment motto.

  61. It is obvious that those questioned have no real appreciation for the value of most items they purchase. If the “true” cost of plastic, glass, aluminum and oil byproducts were attached to the items that people purchased, then more people would realize that you don’t recycle because it is easy, or fun or because it is the latest fad–you do it because it the downline or upline cost of those things require it. Clearly none of those asked have seen the short movie, “The Story of Stuff” or they would realize that it isn’t the government using our precious tax money to sponsor recycling–it is city and government trying to deal with our growing and growing hordes of trash. I think the very best way to encourage recycling is to charge people the “true” cost to throw away all their trash. If people were penalized financially for throwing out things, that would get people thinking differently about recycling. I’m looking forward to that day!

  62. I’m not sure non-recyclers are getting the proper message. You recycle not to just clean up plastic bags and get 2 cents back on cans. We are recycling so we don’t send more ‘stuff’ the the dump. We are trying to keep our Earth and it’s resources clean and working properly. We want a clean place to live and air to breathe. Not sure you guys get it at all. Take a little time to recycle and you get a little time back in your future. I want to see green trees and grass, not trash and nasty smells coming from a landfill. Please rethink your (non)recycling habits.

  63. This whole recycling thing is a royal pain. I just can’t be bothered with it. Wash out the containers, separate everything, etc?? Next they will want you to gift wrap it. This whole environmental movement has caused me nothing but aggravation and annoyance. Look at the number of GOOD manufacturing jobs that have LEFT the US because of the damned environmental regulations imposed on them!! My car is costing me more each year because of damned emission tests. The car runs fine but the machine says it’s polluting. Of course , there are ways to fool the machines, but they take some ingenuity. And NO I’m not buying a newer car. I LIKE my big ,heavy, 15 mpg, American built sedan, not some upholstered tuna can they are trying to shove down everyone’s throat. The trash “problem” , which I don’t believe there is, could be very easily remedied by using incineration and using it to generate electric. There are incinerators that burn hot enough to cause complete combustion. As far as landfills, there is enough open ground just in this country alone that it would take centuries to fill it up, so the space issue is moot. And to people like Kathy who want to penalize those of us that just throw our stuff out, if that day ever occurs, my trash will end up along the side of some dark road and the township can deal with it anyway. If people want to recycle, by all means have fun, but DON”T shove your tree hugging attitudes down everyones throat. I just want to live MY life and not be bothered with crap like the “endangered spotted frog” or some other such nonsense.

  64. Many Americans are just in plain and simple english too lazy to recycle. To help the environment we have to just nip the problem at the bud and start using and manufacturing more and more products that are environment friendly. Take car manufacturers for example, they started manufacturing cars that cause less pollution etc.. I personally am proud to say that i just installed in my backyard a new play area for my children and wanted to put in something to show my neighbors and children the usage of recycling. I found this company which takes old tires that would otherwise sit and pollute the enviorment because they dont decompose and transform them into safe playground mulch for children to play on. I installed it in a bright green that caused my neighbors to look and question and many are considering doing this as well.http://www.rubbermulch.com/playground.htm We have to try find ways to stop damaging the environment and use only recycled and recyclable material.

  65. hi ashley do you have an email or something? i need to contact you for some matters regarding a project i’m doing about recycling and ur article is a major help to me and i need to know ur qualifications in order to prove the credibility of ur article?

  66. I honestly admit that while I do try my best to recycle I’m only scratching the surface compared to most people who are diehard recyclers. Sometimes its lazyness and sometimes its because there arent many recycling programs put in place here in arizona where i live. I also have a problem with the entire recycling “craze” . There is so much demand for recycling for consumers to do their part but very little when an item comes from the source – the manufacturign companies and it looks like it’s taking them forever to get with the program. Computer companies for instance…they make that special laptop for you or tv yet theres so much unrecyclable material that its packed in when there are recyclable packing materials that can come into play but very little companies purchase it. Its quite frustrating when I know if this was large scale it would be a) easier on the consumer and b) it would be a huge accomplishment in keeping all these chemicals and other items out of hte landfill.

  67. Recycling is a wonderful way to save our Mother Earth. I understand the perspective of those people who lack recycling. One, they don’t want to save recyclable material because they didn’t want them to “steal” the space their home. That’s a whine. Two, they don’t want to deal with recyclable material, so they just toss them away. That’s a laziness. Three, they just toss anything in the trash and insist that they don’t know what recycling is all about. That’s ignorant. With all whining, laziness and ignorant, there are more, more, MORE landfills. Pretty soon, there aren’t anymore landfills to fill up the trash. The city or state or even national government might force you to build your OWN landfill. If it happens, DON”T WHINE! DON”T BE LAZY! DON”T BE IGNORANT! Do recycling! Recycling POWER!

  68. Recycling is just another United Nation’s Agenda 21 SCHEME..It’s communism in a BIG WAY. Gov’t CONTROL over every aspect of our lives. There are many reasons why we SHOULDN’T recycle. I just listed the most important. The second most important would have to be the fact that we have been LIED TO about global warming, over population, and a LOT of other things.
    Recycling is actually BAD for the economy and eliminates jobs. And we are VERY FAR from running out of natural resources.
    Do you know that only a VERY SMALL part of the planet is even habitated?? Did you know that if every family in the WORLD were given a medium sized home, that they could ALL fit in the State of Texas?? Stop believing the Globalist’s LIES that are meant to CONTROL YOU!! Fight back!

  69. I got only as far as the first guy, Matt…everyone of his excuses, not reasons, EXCUSES were full of you know what…he sounds like a lazy, spoiled, immature, right-wingnut brat.
    When recycling first started, my parents went out of their way to take recyclables to the center…nobody had to cajole, shame or force them to do that…I was proud of them.
    My comments on a couple of the commenters:
    Barb, your ignorance is breathtaking; and oh, btw, PLEASE don’t reproduce.
    Bill? if you think there are no manufacturing jobs left in America because of environmental regs you are sadly out of your mind! Why should these companies pay Americans good, living wages when they can pay Chinese workers five or ten cents on the dollar over there??? DUH! The good news is, Chinese workers are starting to demand higher pay.
    No wonder the repugs don’t want to fund public schools, they need the Barbs and Bills out there. It’s not called the ‘dumbing down’ of America for nothing, I rest my case.

  70. Recycling is not a bad thing. HOWEVER, it is not ESSENTIAL to “save the earth,” or some other such nonsense. I am 48 years old, and I have recycled anything and everything I could whenever I could. But I do it out of a sense of trying to not be wasteful. I absolutely resent the totally false arguments about global warming, over-population, etc., ad nauseum. And I completely REJECT the notion that government ought to, in some way, be involved in coercing individuals to recycle. In fact, with more government intervention, I will be LESS likely to continue recycling. Get the government OUT of the equation, and let enterprising entreprenears devise ways to take up recycling and make it PROFITABLE. THAT is how to get it done. Stop the nonsense boogie-man stories about how we are killing the earth.

  71. By the way…Red…if you rest your case on that argument, you lose. The “dumbing down” of the schools is being perpetrated primarily by democrats and unions. And republicans aren’t trying to stop funding public schools; they want fair competition between public schools and private schools. Republicans suggest rewarding schools which perform better. What the hell is wrong with that??

  72. I recycle. But then, all I have to do is take a few steps out the kitchen door and drop whatever item it is into the bin. Everything is mixed too.

  73. True the fact that something is inconvienent means people are less likely to do it. I see that sad and pitiful fact proven daily with ALL topics not just recycling. For example, people driving around a parking lot looking for the closer space. People leaving carts all over parking lot rather than walking the extra ten feet to put it in a corral. Examples of societies laziness are so monumental that I could be here all day listing examples I have PERSONALLY witnessed. Which is why sadly, I’m not surprized by many of the responces given.

    If you truly find recycling such a cumbersome concept (pitiful, but true), why not take action to not create the waste in the first place. Eat your left overs when possible. Take as your lunch to work/school, in a lunch box, not a brown bag. Use tupperware containers for your sandwich, snacks, etc not ziploc bags. I do. Take a REFILLABLE bottle with you for your water. Yep I do that too. In most cases anymore tap water is really not much different from the bottled stuff. (research it yourself, it’s true) Stop eating so much fast food, which tends to wrap everything in paper.

    You want incentives? The health benifits of the examples I previously listed seem pretty good to me. Gosh, and what do you know, you have reduced your garbage output as well. Need still more examples? When you shop READ THE LABEL! Buy products packaged in recycled wrappings. Close the circle! Avoid over packaged products all together, and buy in bulk when practical. You might be surprised just how much waste is reduced by taking these simple steps.

  74. Red, Please stop being a moron and do some research. Check out agenda 21. You will see what is really going on.FreedonAdvocates dot org. Download and read the booklet called “Understanding Sustainable Development-Agenda 21. It’s pretty scary because it’s TRUE and you can verify all of it, too. Probably the city you live in is a member of ICLEI, a major organization that is pushing this communist agenda. They want to eliminate private property rights , jam everyone in ‘sustainable villages’, and monitor and control everything we do. Also on their list is to eliminate about ninety percent of the population because we are UN sustainable..I’m not kidding. Look it up!

  75. Wikipedia says that LESS THAN 1% of the Earth is even populated, and you think we have no natural resources, or room for landfills??? Come on people, wake up. We are being SCAMMED by the U.N. into believing all of their lies, so we will COMPLY to their global, communist Agenda 21!!

  76. Recycling is cool. More people should do it. The more zealous recyclers out there should take a more of a leadership role and come to my house and pick up my sorted trash. These green angels should donate their garage space to store my recyclables and find a way to reuse it. I don’t think they are doing enough. When I see recycled material composed and displayed as artwork in my community it makes me want to cry. That is such a thoughtful and creative expression!

  77. Recycling is for suckers. The planet is doing fine. The USA is the cleanest developed country not because of recycling but because of wealth. Money makes the world a cleaner place, not phony recycling schemes and manufactured guilt trips. If recycling made any sense someone would be making money doing it instead of leeching resources from taxpayers to soothe the bed-wetting environmentalists’ anxieties.

  78. Al Gor’s movie inconvenient truth says it all.Humans dont really care much about anything.Other then material wealth and gain etc no matter what it does to the earth!!!!

  79. Great article. I will be posting it on our facebook page.

    Recycling is becoming a win-win situation, its great for the planet and together with the application of good design it can be made profitable. With more education about recycling together with some open minded design we can make some very positive changes. I believe recycling is a genuine and inevitable necessary for the human race.

  80. Selfish, ignorant, lazy and… what do you call someone who just doesn’t give a damn about nothing else except for immediate benefit —what’s in it for me— or else they won’t lift a finger. What gets me the most is that some of these people have good jobs and are doing financially OK . I guess I’m kidding myself, I forget that this world is all about who gets more of everything specially material things without caring who do you crush on the way :-(

  81. People don’t recycle because it is an inconvenience to separate and collect garbage in different bins. As long people are not forced to recycle they will go the most convenient way and throw everything in the same trash can/bin.
    I grew up in Germany and in the early 80’s recycling was kind of voluntary. There were public collection bins separated for textile, paper, glass and cans. During that time only people that were really environment conscious recycled. In the late 80s or early 90s the German government made it mandatory to recycle and put into law. Trash collectors have been obligated to provide different trash cans for different material. I have been gone for a while but I think right now there are up to 3 different trash cans.
    When I lived in Orange County California we also had 3 different trash cans, One for regular trash, one for recycle (paper, cans, glass) and one for green trash (leaves, grass clippings, etc.). If there was recycle trash in the regular trash bin and the trash collector was able to see that they refused pickup and forced you to separate the trash.
    This seems to be the only way lazy people will recycle. It is sad but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  82. This is a really interesting discussion. I have learned so much. I honestly could never figure out why people do not recycle and honestly…I did think less of them for not doing so. I have always lived in cities that have curbside recycling, so its never even been a second thought to me. I even pick up others trash and recycle it, when its on the ground as litter. I also have taken recyclables out of trash bins and placed into the recycling bins.

    One thing that needs to be said here…is that we all as consumers need to think about all the stuff we purchase and the amount. The excessive packaging and wrappings to the stuff, and the inks used to print it all up…all winds up as a heavy cost to our environment too. I think we need to stop buying so much, and thus, consequently less stuff needs to be recycled. ReUSE, rePURPOSE, donate, give away…. there are so many ways to lesson the load besides tossing in the garbage can.

    For me, no bottled drinks, I buy second hand clothing frequently, do not purchase anything excessively packaged, and I buy mainly fresh foods….no packaging. I make art, crafts, and fashions out of aluminum cans, plastic bags, and the like. The stuff I don’t use finds a home or a recycling bin. Thrift stores take unwanted plastic and paper bags. Yes, its a conscious effort.

    When one considers that many big cities have their garbage trucked and shipped to others states, and or countries….something has got to be done about this situation! We live in an economy fueled by ever increasing shopping, which also means ever increasing landfill waste. Ever more large stores are collecting plastic bags for recycling into plastic lumber. National gym shoe collection drives create new materials for childrens playground flooring and equipment. Recycling is not just about glass, newspaper, or plastics. Do what you can, in your own town.

    I don’t understand how a person could want to have a family. and children, yet not consider the world of the future….nor the environmental consequences of living how we all do today. It might not be “economic” to recycle today…but think of your grandchildren….and the world’s environmental problems we have created for them. we all together CAN make a difference…each in our own little ways– NOW.

  83. I agree with Oliver. Let’s mandate it by law, spend tax dollars to make recycling easier, give subsidies to recycling (glass, plastic) companies, and tax the mess out of companies who don’t use recycled materials.

  84. Some folks need to think about the alternatives to recycing – the ECONOMIC as well as environmental issues. How much do you suppose it costs to close one cell in a landfill and open a new one? That doesn’t even take into account how much it costs to just do the engineering on a new landfill site, when the old one is full. I live in a state that has lots of spare room in it but I’d like to think we care more about our land to fill it with garbage!

    Recycling may be inconveinent and takes up space in the house. But the alternative is to waste land and money on trash. Now that really seems stupid!

  85. I thought it was illegal to not recycle if your area offers recycling. I thought you could get fined if you have things in your garbage not recycle bins that you should be recycling. ???

    One place I lived had a monthly garbage pick up fee and a per bag sticker you had to buy each week. However, recycling was FREE!!!! Rather than pay $1.50/can, you learn to place anything you can in the recycling bins to save yourself some $$$$.

  86. The pseudo argument against using cloth diapers is silly. As stated earlier on in the comments, the detergents used to wash cloth diapers are actually quite easy on the water supply – we want no detergent build up in these things. Also, the recommended method of drying them is line drying when possible. I have 20 cloth diapers that I paid about $200 for, these will last the length of my child’s diaper career. Not only have I saved money, I have reduced the amount of plastic and poop in the landfills on her behalf.

    I appreciate that this article points out many of the primary reasons people do not recycle. The combat for this can come not only in the way of improved local programs, but positive peer pressure. If you DO recycle, show your neighbor how easy it is without being sanctimonious.

    Another alternative is to promote purchasing items that are NOT individually packaged. Buying in larger packages, and buying less processed food, is not only better for your environment, it is better for your pocket book (the one thing most people pay attention to) and your health (depending on the items in question).

  87. Has anyone read this and actually thought about what we are saying?
    We aren’t going to recycle unless someone comes and gets it from us.
    I didn’t know how
    I was too busy
    I ask that you sit back and think about it as if one of your children responded like this to a question. My mom would have told me that I have legs to use them and that nothing worth having comes to you that you have to work for it. I don’t know, how would have illicited a response of “why didn’t you ask someone” and i was too busy, would have been finished by her with “to think about anyone other than youself”
    But what really surprises me is that the very same people that want lower taxes and product costs want o be paid to put away their own trash! Instead of wanting to conserve resources and make the air, water and over all living better for future generations we want to be paid to throw away our trash and have it picked up. Reality check, this is life not a fairy tale and I want my kids to get to play outside without smelling the dump next door because we have run out of places to put our trash.

  88. What a great article.

    I believe that until there are enough initiatives from the authorities (local government, Federal government etc) many people will continue to find it too much of a chore, too much of a cut into their precious leisure time. We have exactly the same problem here, across the pond in Britain. People will even throw good things away to save time, rather than take them to a charity shop.

    I don’t see any point in being judgemental about this. We need to take on board these facts and get the organisation in place so that people find it easy to recycle and hard not to. Carrots – and sticks!

  89. Lack of convenience is a huge barrier to recycling. My roadside recycling has an entire page of rules… certain types of cardboard, labels on the containers, newspaper only (no magazines or other paper). What is my other option? What am I supposed to do with my used batteries and electronics and CFLs? Pay a company to take it?

  90. Just want to state that Matt doesnt recycle because he doesn’t want to, I am not sure what kind of recyclers he has come across but I also think he might be confusing conviction with superiority, and there is a big difference. I agree with Matt though, about how recycling is complex, you have to sort, and store and not mix and there is not enough education out there on the process, and it kinda makes you (at least it did me) a little bit dumb about not knowing what to do, but in the end if you are not willing to learn no amount of information and education will help you.
    City programs should be supported because they are self supporting, they are enterprise funds for most governments the people that use the service are the ones that pay for it, so if you are not recycling, you are not contributing to the projects cost. The government do these programs not because they are “pet projects” but because gov understands that they lanfills are filling up. And IMO tax dollars to fund recycling programs are better spent on that than on bailouts for CEO bonuses, GM stock, and the maintaining of a corrections system where prisoners have more comodities than an innocent but homeless child.
    Needless to say, I recycle because its important to me to reduce my carbon footprint, and the truth is its not as inconvenient as it may seem. Just like anything else in this life, if it is important to you, you have to put time into it.

  91. Has anyone consider the cost to recycle. I did my part to research and locate a recycling center to take my old computer monitor – a local Staples retail store. When i brought it in, they told me that Stapes charges $10 to acept it. If this is want it take cost to recycle, it’ll explain why we see computer monitors dumped along highways and abandoned in parking lots.

  92. There is no longer ANY excuse for not recycling – but of course, there are REASONS why people don’t recycle – those involve laziness, not caring, and stupidity.

  93. Our acting is always “economic”, each individual’s and each company’s acts are based on “getting the best result”, having eather a financial goal or to improve our happiness. As long as recycling doesn’t give us any result that’s worth the trouble it will never be successfull. In Reciclandia we DEPEND on recycling, it brings in money AND happiness and also it’s based on being responsible for what we produce (and how) and what we consume. It’s “the system” that makes the difference. Do you want to learn how? Visit http://www.reciclandia.org and read the whole plan.. If you like the idea you might even help, not with donations or money but with sharing your knowledge to solve the start-up problems we’re facing or just by telling others and supporting us at FaceBook or Twitter.

  94. I think that a Volunteer Recycling Partnership would help each type of person. The people who don’t, or can’t, recycle would be willing to do it anyway if it was a convenient activity. The people who are committed to recycling would be helping out those of us who are either disabled and have no way to recycle or those who just think it’s inconvenient, as well as helping the environment. It could work like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and volunteers could collect the recyclables from the matches in their community. Possibly, there would be two volunteers per area: one to pick up the regular recyclables and one for hazardous materials. I believe this could be a feasible non-profit venture for a social entrepreneur. It’s a basic idea but I think it could be expanded for the good of communities everywhere.

  95. Let’s put all of those unemployed Americans to work-“they” can collect, sort and drop off all of the recyclables that the “inconvenienced, intimidated, don’t really give a rat’s patoot about the environment, peer-pressured, can’t drive that far” etc etc adults/teens can’t deal with. Seriously, though-why not fund such a project on a national basis? Jobs creation and environmental awareness-what a perfect combination!

  96. Reading this makes me sad. Certainly there is some inconvenience to recycling. There is some inconvenience to making any effort, for that matter.
    One would think that a strong country like the US would have a bit of a more refined recycling mindset than people who says their city does not encourage them to do so…

  97. Wow! I feel disappointed. Why is it that if something as important as recycling is not convenient it is not done. Entitlement and “not in my back yard” come to mind here.
    We have such a abundance mentality that a lot is pushed to the way side. At the cost of our environment.

    I don’t like to go there, but in Europe recycling has been done for ever. It is part of the fabric of their lives. Things are not wasted as much as they are here in the US. This “throw away” mentality is our own down fall. Everything has a cost. Maybe not right away, but in the long run. Then it might be too late.

    I will continue to teach my kids to recycle as much as we can.

  98. It’s really very sad the mentality of some people. I can’t believe that there are still places in the world that haven’t made provisions for recycling. The cities and towns where there are no programs are losing out since the amount of garbage they are creating can be off-set in financially beneficial ways by instituting programs. It’s expensive to move and store garbage! Most progressive regions realize that it’s money wisely invested to create a program to reduce and recycle but the key we are all missing is to stop with the excessive waste and purchasing in the first place. (paper coffee cups, water bottles, packaging… etc)

    Sure, lots of things can be recycled, but why? Why keep using these items when a real mug or glass does the same thing?

    It’s wonderful to embrace technology, but in this case we need to go back to the old ways… thriftiness and frugality should be the new trends. I like to think of rations during war time, not that I’ve actually ever been on rations, but just think of how precious each item is and the energy it took to produce and transport it.

    We’ve become a disposable society. Time for us all to take responsibility over this earth and its dwindling resources.

  99. Last sunday I volunteered to clean the river banks in my town. Some women who were picknicking sneered at me : “it’s dirty, hey?” I answered : “well then come join me”, they : “we ain’t got time”, so I said ” better to have some slaves working for you” (maybe I lacked diplomacy), and then they yelled “f…ck off!!!”

  100. You really believe that money is the end all be all of why something should be done?
    Processing sewer waste is a money losing venture, there is no profit to be made.
    Funny how no one says this kind of recycling isn’t economical and shouldn’t be done.
    Any way you slice it, this planet’s resources are finite.
    Just because they won’t run out in your lifetime is no reason not to close the loop on wastes.

  101. only 11 states actually have bottle bills. where a state has a 10 cent redemption the recycling rate is 97%
    I recycle because I think of material as a future resource . I think about the generations that will not have the resources we have now . What people should be really be concerned about is the plastic bottle. Give up the bottled water habit. And if you need to be educated on why, watch the movie tapped.

  102. I won’t accept anyone’s excuse for not recycling. It is not impossible. It is necessary and ethical. But there is something one can do to reduce the need for so much recycling–‘precycling’ or thinking before you purchase something. Do I REALLY need to buy this? Is the packaging overkill and could I buy something similar with less packaging? Was it made in a foreign country, requiring extensive shipping (oil, pollution, etc.) to get it to my point of sale?

    It might sound easy for me to say, but my husband and I have been married for 25 years and have not had garbage/recycling pickup in all that time. We compost (because we choose to raise most of our own fruits/vegetables). What follows is that we don’t have to buy so much produce that is in packaging that can be recycled (or not). Less to recycle. If something we buy quits working, instead of throwing it in the trash, we try to get it repaired first. If we can’t get it repaired, we disassemble it & recycle what we can. We live in a rural area and the closest place to recycle some items is 100 miles away. We go to that city about twice monthly to visit kids, so we just haul our items with us. It is not impossible. It becomes a habit, just like taking your trash to the dumpster.

    I realize it takes a big mind change, but try it. You might feel real good about yourself.

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