From an engineering perspective, here's some questions to ask about before you recycle something;
1. Does it grow on trees or in fields? If "yes", it had better be fairly expensive before one recycles it. (say pieces of a walnut table)
2. Is it a hazardous material?
3. Does it require far less effort to recycle it than it does to make it in the first place?
4. Are the recycled products similar in quality to products made from new materials?
If the answer to #1 is yes, or the answers to 2, 3, and 4 are no, then the question of whether to recycle it or not is primarily an economic issue, not an engineering one. Hence my family is ending all recycling of paper and plastic products until someone convinces me that it makes economic sense. If sometime in the future, someone figures out how to make good plastic products from recycled stock, they will be able to mine dumps to get their raw materials provided by my family.
Until then, it's a highly stable system of carbon sequestration. Everybody wins.
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