I remember when the recycling thing got going back when I was growing up in the 1970’s. there was a time when I used to volunteer with the Boy Scouts or our church to dump old paper and bottles in dumpsters. I don’t think anybody ever questioned very much what we were doing because as Penn points out, it made us feel good. But things went rotten. The problem was that for some people voluntary recycling wasn’t enough and they advocated to make it mandatory. When you do something because it makes you feel good that’s voluntary and good thing. When the government mandates that you do it and effectively points a virtual gun at your head if you don’t, that’s tyranny and very very bad.
The fact is that for most things it doesn’t make real sense to collect and attempt to reprocess. The labor and transportation costs far outweigh the benefits. The fact is that all the reprocessing takes energy and labor. Especially our time.
In Japan they are big on recycling. Or at least you are supposed to be like the well put together young lady in the anime video below.
The reality, of course, is a bit different as I didn’t see much different behavior in Japan than here in the states even if the can have multiple openings for cans and bottles.
Other than metals which are already by and large recycled and have been before recycling became a religion that was mandated by government, the rest of sorting trash doesn’t really make sense. Sure the paper and glass are recoverable, but then that stuff has to be shipped to where the plant is, which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away. It’s also likely that your recycled material is competing with local materials that are cheaper almost than the cost of transportation. So it’s unlikely that any costs could recovered. Which is why so much of the costs are dumped on the poor residents.
Frankly as program to make people feel good about being closer to the environment, recycling works well. Like most religions and sacrifices do. As a means of saving actual resource of time and energy, recycling fails. Which means that recycling should be treated as any other religion and the government should keep it’s hands off and stop interfering with people’s live and wasting their time.