Yes, environmentalists have a tendency to adopt an almost cult-like mindset that ignores the underlying science when it doesn't fit the generally accepted doctrine. Some recycling is greatly beneficial, while other items are so inefficient to recycle that any benefit is eclipsed by the costs and energy spent. It is not a rational discussion; ALL recycling is by definition good, even if the net effect is negative for the environment.
Many environmentalists often overstate the benefits of recycling. Many products that are recycled actually require more resources than just creating a new product from scratch. Many recycled products require additional resources, some of which could be scare, in order to be created. Therefore, in many cases, it is better to just create a new product from scratch, instead of recycling.
Yes, environmentalists may overstate the benefits of recycling. They claim that recycling is a great help to the environment, however, they tend to fail to state the exact amount of benefit that the environment receives from each act of recycling. Some things that people do may have very little effect on the environment.
Sturdy cotton shopping bags are designed for years of use so it does not take long to reap the benefits of using them instead of plastic bags. Additionally, careless disposal of plastic bags that do not decompose naturally can kill land and sea creatures that swallow them or get trapped inside them and suffocate.