Eli5 Why is recycling not more common?


Explain to me, if the world is going on about recycling and how it’s good for the environment
Why is it that nobody is doing it? I’ve been told that recycling helps to save costs and money so shouldnt everyone be recycling?

In: Earth Science

>Explain to me, if the world is going on about recycling and how it’s good for the environment Why is it that nobody is doing it? I’ve been told that recycling helps to save costs and money so shouldnt everyone be recycling?

For most materials in existence recycling is (currently) only driven by idealism. When using new resources is cheaper than re-using old ones there simply is no economic incentive.
And every purchase of a product made from materials that can’t be recycled at all might as well be a voting ballot stating “I’d rather buy cheap than sustainable”.

Well it would be very good for the enviroment.

The issue is the cost. First the garbage has to be sorted wich requires expensive machines (or tons of low wage workers). Then the usefull parts have to be cleaned and refined further before they become useable again.

Financially thats not worth the effort right now, new ressources are still not too scarce to be unaffordable. But in a hundred years landfills might become (nasty) mines for ressources.

For plastics there is an additional problem: there are so many different ones that the result of recycling is a low grade plastic mix. Usefull for some stuff, but not nearly everything. And just burning the waste is pretty much like burning the oil that the plastic is made from, so it kinda becomes fossil fuel with extra steps right now.

For people, probably laziness but on a bigger scale recycling is still marginally more expensive. You need to sort, salvage, reprocess ship and remanufacture recycling. Recycling programs in first world countries is usually subsidized but lacking and inefficient. Then it gets sorted and loaded for export domestically which costs a lot of money in labour and infrastructure. Then it arrives in a poorer country in the same shape it was when it was thrown away. All the hard to recycle parts are discarded in to the overflowing landfills or burned. Then what’s cost effectively useful is reprocessed for the same limited use products that got it in your country in the first place.

Recycling is great, but it’s a nightmare to manage. If it was easy and cost effective the people with money would find a way to make us all do it

Steel and aluminum make a bunch of sense to recycle ♻️. Cardboard and clean paper is reasonable. Plastic is a disaster.

let’s say you’re the government. You have lots of things you want to buy – you want some more guns, you want to cut taxes to the rich, you want to fund your healthcare system, you want to give yourself a raise. You need money to buy these things. Now eventually you come to the problem of waste disposal. You’ve got a lot of rubbish and you need to deal with it. You could recycle it, but that would cost a lot of money – you couldn’t just dig a big hole in the ground, you’d have to hire a load of people to sort it, you’d have to pay for furnaces n’ shit to melt it down into usable forms. You could then sell the product to companies who want to make stuff sure, but it’s cheaper for them to buy the non-recycled product because that product is cheaper to produce, so you can’t sell your recycled materials at the price you’d need to sell them for recycling to break even. So, given that recycling will cost you money, do you spend your money on recycling, something most people don’t even really care about, or do you spend it on that shiny new drone you’ve been wanting?

Recycling does help to save money in the long run, but only with international cooperation. We don’t have international cooperation and we won’t until it’s already far too late, so each government has no choice but to operate on its own individual interests and maximise the efficiency of its cash flow. That means not spending money on stuff that isn’t going to get them re-elected, and recycling is not one of those things because most people don’t give enough of a shit about it.

The majority of recycled materials end up at the same place as regular trash. It’s just pandering to the green fad.

If nobody is doing it then how did the council collect my recycling at the weekend?