Recycling is one of the most beneficial habits for preserving our environment’s health and creating a more sustainable culture. The average American produces about 7.5 pounds of garbage every day; without recycling, that garbage goes into landfills where it’s compacted and buried. There’s only so much room to bury our garbage, though, and it’s not exactly good for the soil, plants or wildlife.

Recycling allows us to reuse materials, preventing deforestation and the use of finite natural resources, while also reducing the amount of energy we consume producing new materials. Additionally, recycling benefits our economy by adding jobs and creating new demand.

Despite all these benefits, we’re still only seeing a 34.3 percent recycling rate. So what excuses are people making for not recycling?

Top Recycling Excuses

Most non-recyclers make one of these excuses:

1. It’s too hard.

For many Americans, curbside recycling services are offered by the city (and for some cities, recycling is mandatory). For these residents, this excuse holds no merit — all you have to do is pull one extra bin to the curb every week. However, not all cities in the country offer recycling services. Some people have to make the effort to find a recycling facility in their area and make an occasional trip to dispose of recyclable materials. While perhaps inconvenient, this still isn’t hard and doesn’t hold as a valid excuse to not recycle. Not sure where to take your recyclables? Search our handy recycling directory.

2. It’s too time-consuming.

Some people claim that recycling simply takes too much time. Again, for those with access to curbside recycling services, this excuse doesn’t hold. Throwing a plastic bottle into a recycling bin takes just as much time and effort as throwing it into a garbage can, and the amount of time it takes to bring the bin to the curb is negligible. Even dropping off your recycling to a plant doesn’t take much time — you might spend five minutes finding a recycling center near you, plus another 10 to 15 minutes to drive to and from the facility. If you can’t spare 15 minutes every other week — or even once a month — you may need to reprioritize other areas of your life. If there’s no way to get to a recycling plant, you can improve your lifestyle in other ways by reducing your reliance on disposable products and reusing things like bread bags and yogurt containers.

3. It’s a waste of energy and resources.

There have been some reports that recycling actually uses more energy and resources than it saves, and it’s true that it requires energy to prepare older materials for reuse, and it costs cities significant capital to keep recycling programs running. However, thanks to the advent of new technology and more-efficient processes, recycling almost always results in a net gain for the cities and environments engaged in its practice.

4. I don’t know what’s recyclable.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with recycling, it may seem like a hassle to learn what’s recyclable and what’s not. It doesn’t help that the materials that can be recycled sometimes shift over time. However, most recycling facilities don’t force you to sort your recyclables beforehand, and the list of materials is pretty basic. Almost all forms of metal, plastic and glass are recyclable at most advanced facilities. Do some research about what is accepted in your area. Even if you only know of a few materials that are certainly recyclable, recycling half your recyclable materials is better than not recycling at all. Be careful not to go too far in the other direction and engage in “wish-cycling.”

5. It doesn’t benefit me.

Some people refuse to recycle simply because there’s no immediate advantage. Consumers aren’t generally paid for the recyclable materials they dispose of, nor is there a significant change in the quality of life associated with recycling. The keyword here, however, is “immediate.” You may not immediately benefit from disposing of your garbage properly, but you’ll be contributing to a system that uses less landfill space, harnesses natural resources more sustainably, and contributes less to global climate change. You’ll be creating a better world for your children and grandchildren, along with ensuring that we don’t run out of usable materials in your own lifetime.

How to Correct Misconceptions

Misconceptions and misunderstandings are standing in the way of a higher recycling rate, so how can we go about correcting them as a society? Information campaigns can help; by making more information about the recycling process available and relatable to a bigger portion of the population, we can help people better understand the realities of the practice.

We can also keep recycling top of mind by including more reminders to recycle in public areas and on recyclable products, and by having open conversations with each other about our own recycling habits.

Only together will we be able to reduce our consumption of energy and resources, creating a more sustainable environment for the future.

Read More:
What to Do with Things You Can’t Recycle
How to Convince Non-Recyclers to Ditch the Trash Bag
Recycling Label Seeks to Clear Customer Confusion

By Anna Johansson

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna loves enjoying the great outdoors with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.