One million dollars. That's what the City of Phoenix spends each year just to remove non-recyclables from its recycling barrels. One reason is, as with many government programs, it isn't always simple for consumers to figure out how to play by the book.
Phoenix gladly accepts pop and milk bottles, egg cartons, and foam meat trays. But shampoo bottles, margarine containers, and many plastic plates aren't allowed. In other words, plastics 1, 2, and 6 are in, while plastics 3, 4, and 5 are out. Who knew?
Government also has a hard time dealing with pesky plastic bags. Recyclables put in them wont be recycled. Instead, they are treated as regular trash, but at a much higher cost. At the end of the day, many recyclables wont make it through the recycling labyrinth because of confusing government rules.
When it comes to complicated things like sorting trash and recyclables, its probably best to get government out of the picture. Privatizing recycling operations would introduce the profit motive into the recycling business, creating an incentive for companies to make recycling easy and more efficient. That would be a boon for consumers, businesses, and the environment.
Benjamin Barr is a constitutional policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Studies.