Its a question I ask myself when I watch a teenager toss a soda can in the trash, or my neighbors burn (yes BURN) their newspapers. Why don’t people recycle?
Is it because they don’t care? Or maybe its just too much hassle. Perhaps those that don’t recycle fail to realize the amount of energy and resources to make new containers, cell phones, newspapers, catalogs… you name it.
Now, I didn’t major in psychology, but I’m sure there are a number of reasons that people who don’t recycle use to justify their decision-making.
So let’s delve into some trash-talking!
1. Too inconvenient. Perhaps the biggest reason people choose not to recycle is that its not convenient. Consider this: you finish your newspaper and soda while waiting for the bus. You don’t want to leave it lying around, but you’re not going to tote it with you either. The bus station only includes a trash bin, so into the garbage they go!
Some municipalities are including separate recycling bins in public places so that people have a convenient place to discard recyclables. Yet there is still a long ways to go to make recycling more convenient to encourage the practice.
2. Too confusing. Last week, we posted about the numerous rules concerning items that could, and could not be recycled. Surely the government is at hand in coming up with the laundry list! You may want to hire a lawyer to help you through all the fine print. But seriously, once you take a few minutes to become familiar with the list of recyclables accepted in your town, it isn’t all that difficult to make a practice of it.
You may even want to sing a song about recycling….
3. Lack of storage space. This falls pretty close to the inconvenience excuse, but the people who don’t recycle because they don’t have room to keep cardboard, cans, plastic bags and more, simply don’t want to have to store the items until they can take them to the proper recycling location.
Let’s talk about plastic bags in particular. The recycling rate is dismal in large part because they cannot be mixed in with paper and plastics. They have to be returned to the grocery store separately. That extra step may just prevent many people from bothering. Into the trash go those plastic bags!
4. Lack of Incentive. There are a number of people that are only motivated to act if it will benefit them directly. What is the personal incentive to recycle? Other than the fact that it “feels good,” there is little literature on the overall benefits of recycling in general.
In fact, I know of some that believe it takes more energy to recycle than to create a new product. I find that hard to believe – unless you are only looking at production energy costs. When you factor in materials costs (particularly growing trees for paper, drilling for oil for plastics products), I’d say that recycling definitely comes out ahead from a green standpoint.
5. Psychological Mind Games. What? I can hear you asking! Yes, its true. Some people don’t recycle just to get back at another group of people. Maybe they are mad at Democrats. Perhaps they don’t agree with the idea of Earth Day. Often times, they could be climate change deniers. Whatever the reason, there are some that simply trash their recyclables to make a point, as absurd as that sounds.
Do you recycle? If not, why not!