Five and a half years ago, I confessed that I don't recycle. My reasons were selfishly simple: There was nothing in it for me, the guy doing all the work.
I don't recycle.
Let me expand on that statement slightly: I don't recycle anything. Newspapers? No. Glass? No. Cans? Nope. Phone books? I'm gonna go with no. Plastics? Surely you recycle plastics? That would be no. I don't recycle. Never have. I've got plenty that I think is recyclable (glass, cans, newspapers, you name it!), but I don't recycle any of it. It all just goes in the trash.
I can just see the dazed, manic expression of the "save the (insert_cause_here)" folks heads: What? He doesn't recycle? This does not compute. This does not compute. What do we do?
I could give you some cutesy reason as to why I don't recycle, like, I'm afraid my wife would run over the recycle bin in her fossil-fuel belching SUV (which…now that I think of it is kind of another half-valid reason), but the truth of the matter is I just don't want to recycle and there's no incentive for me to do so at all.
Does my garbage bill go down because I put a Diet Coke can in a plastic bin instead of the trash can? Nope. The city actually makes money selling my trash and (hypothetical) recyclables to companies. Do I see any of that money? Are my taxes going to go down if I recycle? Nope.
Will I sleep easier at night knowing that I saved x amount of space in a landfill because I recycle? Nope. We all help pay the salaries of hard working men/women who are paid to inspect the garbage at the landfill and remove recyclables. I don't want them to lose their jobs. And even if your area doesn't pay someone to do it, there are definitely some people who go to the landfill and remove recyclables to go to the recycling center because they can use the extra $2-3 for doing it. Do I want to be the one that says, "Gee, sorry Mr. Homeless Guy, you and your dog are just shit outta luck because I've decided to start throwing my own cans into this little plastic box?" No, I don't want to be that guy.
I don't pretend that I'm some kind of hero (for this reason, anyway), but the possibility exists that people who don't recycle are actually doing more to advance the effort to "save the _____" by not recycling. Somewhere right this very minute, genius scientists and inventors are coming up with new ways to use my trash for all kinds of greater needs: electricity, paving roads, creating shipping commerce (garbage barge joke! j/k). Who knows what they'll think of next? If we all recycled, this research might still go on, but not with same sense of urgency because the land fills wouldn't be growing at the same rate (hypothetically).
But, in complete honesty, the latter reasons above are just secondary and tertiary reasons. The real reason I don't recycle is that I don't see a reason to do it. I wouldn't save any money. I wouldn't realize some sort of practical benefit.
My garage has two bins: a big ol' trash can and a bright, clean, shiny recycle box. My name is Kevin and I don't recycle. I use the trash can for everything. (Otherwise the recycle box might get dirty!)
The point, of course, was simple: There is no market-driven incentive for recycling.
Oops… make that there WAS no market-driven incentive.
Fast forward to November 18, 2008… ABC News: Cash for Trash Spurs Recycling Boom
For years, Everett city officials tried in vain to increase recycling. They considered and discarded pay-as-you-go trash collection.
But when Everett sweetened the deal this summer with coupons and gift certificates as incentives, the amount of recycled material increased tenfold.
At her curbside, Everett resident Dawn Colameta said, "A lot more people are recycling now because they get something for it."
Before the cash-for-trash initiative, recycling coordinator Jon Norton said recycling participation was pitiful. Now, he couldn't be happier. "There are carts all over the city, up and down every street," he said.
Joe Barressi, crew supervisor for hauler Capitol Waste, has also noticed the difference on his Everett recycling route. "On an average day here, I picked up 3 tons," he said. "We're bringing in anywhere between 10 and 13 tons now."
Well… that's a win for consumers, but what about the city? This has to be a losing proposition, right? Wrong.
The city of Everett gets rewarded, too, by saving an estimated $150,000 this year in trash disposal costs. "We are saving the city money by avoiding sending trash full of recycling to an incinerator," Norton said. "We are saving a great deal of money."
Welcome to my vision, America. You're five years late to the party, but — thankfully — you've caught up.