Rigorous Recycling

It's uncanny how many Americans apparently aren't making sure aluminum cans go into a recycling bin instead of a trash can. If you ask them, though, as a recent poll did, they'll say they're doing more recycling, when in fact, they're doing less.

Some 50.7 billion aluminum cans were tossed last year instead of being recycled, according to the Container Recycling Institute. And the Aluminum Association says recycling of aluminum will dip below 50 percent this year, a rate not seen since 1986.

More disturbing is the fact that aluminum-can recycling is a bellwether for other kinds of recycling, such as glass, plastic, and paper. That's mostly because it's valuable, easy, and cheap to reuse.

Have Americans simply become lazy recyclers? Or are there are other factors in play?

Just 10 states have beverage recycling programs. And rising costs, along with lower consumer interest in recycling, are forcing cities to reconsider their curbside recycling programs.

Indeed, the business bottom line may be just as much at fault as what does or doesn't end up in the bottom of a recycling bin. So much aluminum has been recycled that, along with thinner cans, aluminum scrap just isn't commanding a high price these days.

But does no financial incentive mean no recycling at all? New York City even stopped recycling glass and plastic last summer. While recycling businesses obviously need to turn a profit to stay viable, does it have to be a substantial one?

Rising landfill costs may once again raise the prices, and incentives, for businesses to recycle more goods. Citizens willing to pay a little more for garbage pickup could also help revive flagging recycling efforts.

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