People like free things, it makes them think they are getting something for nothing. When will people recognize the cost of free items?
I organized a health fair and made sure that all of the 'vendors' had some sort of screening or activity beyond giving out brochures and stuff. People seemed to still just want the stuff. I've been to health fairs and conventions before and I have gone home with stuff. I never look at it again. No matter how good my intentions, the pamphlets in the bag never get read.
While it is possible that I'm the only person who has that problem, I expect that many trees are thrown away or recycled at conventions and health fairs. The 'free' stuff that people take is certainly costing somebody something. It costs the company. So why does the company give it out?
I would assume that someone somewhere did the math and decided that 4 out of every 100 people who take a brochure will buy something (I completely made that number up, it could very well be 96 out of 100). It is therefore worth the trade-off. The four people that buy something pay for the 100 pamphlets to be printed. It's a numbers game and it's worth the waste.
There has to be a better way.
There is an interesting phenomenon with free services. I work in a health club. We have exercise classes that cost money to take. They are generally popular and people pay for them and attend. We also have free classes, but they never progress, they stay at the same level so that anyone can drop in and participate. We have tried to make some classes free, but still allow a progression through the class. We had people sign up for the classes, even though they didn't have to pay. At the end of the 8-12 week sessions, only a few people would continue to attend the free classes.
People don't value free things. I think we should start charging for things that used to be free. No more freebies. Pay for plastic bags at stores. Pay for brochures. Pay for samples at Costco. These things don't have to cost a lot, maybe even just a few cents, but putting a cost to them will reduce waste. And yes, taking a sample that you don't need at Costco is waste, you just happen to be using your body as the garbage can.