This paper deals with policies on recycling of discarded complex products, elaborated from an environmental point of view. Two principal factors cause incoherence, inconsistency and ineffectiveness in such a policy, viz. lack of knowledge of the system, and deficiency in feedback. This is reinforced by ad hoc decision making and conflicting interests. To illustrate this mechanism, a case study on refrigerator recycling policy in the Netherlands is discussed. It is demonstrated that, to increase effectiveness of policy making, a clear view of sacrifices and benefits should be available. Decision tools based on systems modelling are proposed to improve policy making.