Recycling is the act of re-processing old bottles, cans, papers, plastics, electronics, or other materials instead simply throwing them away. (Other forms of such environmental responsibility are reusing and reducing, as shown in the common slogan "reduce, reuse, recycle.") Most western countries have recycling programs sponsored by local councils. Recycling is picked up from the curb, like standard garbage pick-up, and taken to a recycling plant where it is sorted (plastic, paper etc.) and smelted down to be remade. It is estimated that in the United States there are 8550 curbside recycling programs. In certain countries in Europe, such as Germany, there are heavy fines for people who fail to recycle regularly. San Francisco also mandates extensive recycling on its residents (see San Francisco values).
Critics dispute the net economic and environmental benefits of recycling over its costs, and suggest that proponents of recycling often make matters worse and suffer from confirmation bias. Specifically, critics argue that the costs and energy used in collection and transportation detract from (and outweigh) the costs and energy saved in the production process; also that the jobs produced by the recycling industry can be a poor trade for the jobs lost in logging, mining, and other industries associated with virgin production; and that materials such as paper pulp can only be recycled a few times before material degradation prevents further recycling. Proponents of recycling dispute each of these claims, and the validity of arguments from both sides has led to enduring controversy.