Take a look, then, in your laundry room.
There you’ll find recycling machines called “washer” and “dryer.” We could, if we wished, throw away each item of clothing after the first time we wear it. But we instead recycle our clothing by, as we say, “doing the laundry.”
We voluntarily incur the expense of buying washers and dryers — and voluntarily take the time to do the laundry — because doing so saves us enough money over the long run to make recycling our clothes worthwhile.
What these observations tell me is that we Americans are not improvident wasters of resources.
Instead, we recycle when doing so is worthwhile and we refrain from recycling when the cost of doing so isn’t justified.
As always when evaluating coercive interventions (normally called “public policies”), moral judgments are ultimately required to define efficiency, because the latter concept is based on a starting status quo. One moral judgment underlying my reflections lies in the usual recognition of the value of individual preferences, which is a natural moral principle for economists. Ancillary moral judgments are required for thinking about war.