Photo by Laura Sullivan/NPR
According to Greenpeace’s report on the state of plastic recycling in the United States, most of the plastic that people put into their recycling bins ends up in landfills or worse.
The report, citing separate data released in May of this year, revealed that the amount of plastic actually turned new had fallen to a new low of about 5%. of plastic is produced, that number is expected to decline further.
According to standards set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Initiative, Greenpeace says plastic is called “recyclable,” even soda bottles, which are one of the most prolific items thrown into recycling bins. I found that I didn’t meet the standards. Recycling of plastics must be 30% to reach this standard. No plastic has ever been recycled and reused at such a rate.
“More plastic is produced, but even less is recycled,” says Lisa Lumsden, Senior Plastic Campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “As the industry plans to triple plastic production by 2050, the crisis is getting worse and will continue to get worse without dramatic change.”
According to waste management experts, the problem with plastic is that it is expensive to collect and sort. There are now thousands of different types of plastics, none of which can be melted together, and even plastics he degrades after one or two uses. Greenpeace has found that the more plastic that is recycled, the more toxic it becomes.
New plastics, on the other hand, are cheaper and easier to produce. As a result, there is little market for plastic waste. This is a reality that the public does not want to hear.
Trent Carpenter, general manager of Southern Oregon Sanitation, warned a few years ago that consumers could no longer take out any plastic trash other than soda bottles and jugs, such as milk containers and detergent bottles. He said people were upset when he said that. They wanted to put strawberry containers, bags, yogurt his cups, and all kinds of plastic waste into the recycling bin.
“We had to re-educate people that a lot of material ends up in landfills,” Carpenter said. , will be landfilled elsewhere. [you] You can’t do anything with that material. ”
This message was difficult for the general public to absorb because there are so many different trash cans in public spaces and their own communities telling them to put their plastic in recycling bins.
Carpenter said he wanted to be transparent and truthful with his customers. This is different from companies that keep telling their customers that the plastic in their bags, containers, etc. is being replaced by something new.
“Politically, it’s easier to say, ‘Well, we’re going to take everything back, I think we can recycle it,’ and turn away,” Carpenter said of other companies. “It’s greenwashing at its best.”
Greenpeace has discovered that several facilities are attempting to reprocess cups and containers. It is sometimes called “Number 5” because of the markings on the container. But there are few. While 52% of US recycling facilities accept this type of plastic, reports show that less than 5% of it is actually recycled, with the rest sent to landfills.
Low reprocessing rates run counter to the plans of the oil and gas industry. Industry lobbyists say they plan to recycle all the plastic pieces they make into new ones by 2040.
In 2020, an NPR research report revealed that industry players were skeptical about the recyclability of plastics, even though they knew in the early 1970s and 1980s that plastics were not economically recyclable. It was misleading the public about sex.
The industry lobby group American Chemical Society did not respond to NPR’s request for comment on the Greenpeace report.
Environmentalists and legislators in some states are now pushing for laws banning single-use plastics and “bottle bills” that customers pay to take home their plastic bottles. have improved plastic bottle recycling rates, but face fierce resistance from lobbyists in the plastics and oil industries.
“The real solution is to switch to a reuse and replenishment system,” said Lumsden. “We have a decision to make about plastic pollution. It’s time for companies to turn off the plastic tap.”
After years of embracing plastic recycling, many environmental groups believe that the public will eventually come to see plastic as what they call garbage, and replace it with something else. I hope that we will learn to ask ourselves if we can use