Struggle With Recycling?

Is recycling hard?

Why do so many American’s struggle with recycling?  Is tossing a bottle into a different bin really hard?  What can go in the bin, what can’t?  Can only newspaper and regular paper go in or can magazine paper go in?  What about wrapping paper?  What about plastic tubs versus plastic bags?  Does it matter what color the glass is and what if it breaks?  What truly led me to start this blog was my belief about why people don’t recycle much or at all. The more I listened to conversations around me and the more articles I read, I began to believe it wasn’t that people were against recycling, it was that they were confused by it.  If I could create a place to share all the information I’ve learned as well as the changes our family has made as we travel this road to a healthier, more environmentally friendly lifestyle, hopefully, others will decide to join us.  First, we must determine and understand the hurdles.


Why don’t people recycle?

According to a 2011 IPOS survey, inconvenience, time consumption, lack of space, confusion about what can/can’t be recycled and apathy are the top reasons American adults don’t recycle.   Let’s dig a bit deeper to understand why adults struggle with recycling.


It’s inconvenient.

Curbside pick-up is available for many things at our house.  Our hauler recently stopped accepting glass so I have to take that to my local recycling center.  I’ll admit, I’m not thrilled about it so I can understand the convenience factor.  Only those truly interested in the benefits of recycling will participate unless it is convenient.  Knowing that glass can be recycled over and over without loss of quality, strength or purity, I had to find a way to continue.  My county maintains several collection centers so I found one that was central to other errands I ran on a weekly basis and incorporated the extra stop.  Another idea would be to band together with several neighbors and take turns making the trip.


It takes too much time.

Cans, jars, bottles, tubs, etc. that previously contained food will need to be rinsed out.  Scoop out as much of the food as you can (use a spatula if necessary), fill with some water, pop the top back on, shake well and empty.  The container should then be clean enough to drop in the recycling bin.  The other time-consuming procedure is either taking the bin to the curb on pick-up day or driving to the collection center.  If you have to drive, don’t make a special trip, take items to the collection center when you’re doing other things in that area of town.


No space for collection bins.

If your home is short on space, you may need to think strategically about where you collect your items.  A small box under the bathroom sink and a small box next to the kitchen trash can may be all you have room for.  I keep a bag on one of the door handles in my bathroom to collect everything.  When the bag starts getting full, I take everything down to the bin.  Space may not be as big of an issue if you have a garage.   A little thought put into where your collection bin will go and you’ll be well on your way to forming a habit.


It’s too confusing.

According to EPA estimates, about 75% of household waste in the US is recyclable.  This includes things like glass, cardboard, paper, steel and aluminum cans and plastic containers.  Special collection bins are available for plastic bag recycling.  Look for these bins in retail locations like grocery stores and big-box retailers.  Generally speaking, plastic bags are not picked up curbside as they can clog up the sorting machines and then some poor soul has to go clean it out.  Check with your trash hauler or local government for the definitive answer but if in doubt, throw it out. The How2Reycle standardized labeling system is being adopted by many brands.  This system clearly communicates, on the package, how the packaging is recycled thereby, clearing up some of the confusion.  The Environmental Protection Agency is another good resource for information about how to and why we should recycle.


Some people don’t see the benefit to it or they don’t care.  I’ve heard people say we can’t recycle our way out of this waste problem and while I think that’s true, we must do our part to reduce the amount of waste that’s sent to our landfills because eventually, they will be full.


Just like everything in life, the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit.  Is recycling one of your “habits”?  Did any of these surprise you or can you think of other reasons that people don’t recycle?  All in all, with a little brainstorming, you’ll be a recycling guru in no time.



Why do so many people struggle with recycling? These are the 5 common problems and solutions to help even the most hesitant recycler.


3 thoughts on “Struggle With Recycling?

  1. I’m so glad that it is easy to recycle where we live. The only thing they won’t take in the recycling bin is cardboard. So we cut the boxes that we may have down flat, and put them inside another box. This keeps them organized and together. When we have a “full load” I run them up to the recycling center…maybe once every 3-4 months.

    1. How interesting they don’t take cardboard. That seems to be the one thing that is a staple for curbside haulers. Love your idea of breaking things down and storing in a bigger box. A trip to the recycling center 4 times a year is surely doable. Thanks for reading 🙂

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