Almost everything you separate out to “recycle” actually goes to a landfill. It’s mostly a feel-good pantomime.
Metal and glass *can* be recycled, but most of the stuff you set out on the curb isn’t, as it’s too expensive to sort and ship.
What about paper and plastic?
There’s a massive glut of paper, and no one can afford to sort and transport mixed paper. Clean office paper, industrial scrap, and corrugated boxes have a value and a market. The rest of the stuff? Not so much.
Ditto with the dizzying variety of plastics, which have to be sorted by type to be of value and use.
A huge amount of plastic composites, coated papers, etc., are completely unrecyclable, as are foam containers, foam packing, and plastic bags.
Clean milk jugs and plastic soda bottles are the only sizeable recycled plastic streams and if your household trash has much of either one, your diet needs a serious check.
How bad is it? Many city managers say it costs more to recycle most items than to send them to the landfill, and if recycling is mandated, fees will have to be imposed.