The argument adapted to recycling is as follows:
1.) If we are morally obligated to perform actions, then it follows that we must be able to perform them.
2.) Individuals ought to recycle to improve environmental conditions, yet their decision to recycle has negligible impact (cannot improve environmental conditions).
3.) Individuals are not morally obligated to recycle.
From an incentive perspective it appears that recycling is flawed. Since a person who chooses to recycle has to endure the inconvenience of sorting one’s trash, while one who does not can ignore such categorization and dispose of garbage in a more convenient matter. Recycling is objectively a good thing, because the environmental benefits that come out of such a simple act are obvious, yet there are so many of us that are unencouraged to do so. This argument can be applied to many other concepts such as giving money to the poorest, most destitute people. This has a negligible impact on poverty as a whole, costs you money and yet is clearly an objectively good thing to do.
The argument demonstrates the self-centered nature of human moral decision-making. If there was some negative consequence such as a short term of community service attributed to not recycling or giving money to the poor, we would recycle or give money to the poor (to an extent). If we were rewarded, by x amount of health benefits or tax exemption, we would recycle or give money to the poor. Yet, because of a tiny inconvenience or monetary burden we are un-incentivized. Our scope is so small that the immense benefits that can be attained if society as a whole enacted such behavior are disregarded.
Perhaps our self-centered nature can be attributed to concepts of American Culture such as the American Dream, or the capitalistic society in which we live. Perhaps our self-centered nature can simply be attributed to the fact that we spend every waking minute of our time with ourselves and thus, our interest carries more weight (a very rational reason in my opinion). Either way it is fascinating that such pursuit of self-enjoyment can sway people away from making objectively good choices.