One of my heros, Mike Munger, has a great piece on recycling in Durham here. His case is fairly simple: if it’s a valuable resource, someone will pay you to take it away. If it’s garbage, you have to pay someone to take it away. The price system is the only standard of value we have.
Greens use a different standard, though, one akin to selling indulgences, perhaps. Paraphrasing John Baden: Applying resource economics to recycling is like applying nutrition analysis to taking communion. (See also my piece on the recent trash legislation put out by the NC General Assembly in which I also describe how recycling consumes more resources than it saves.)