Exposing The Myth Of Plastic Recycling: Why A Majority Is Burned Or Thrown In A Landfill

Merin Porter
Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin
edited November 2020 in Other News

“'The vast majority of plastic that has ever been produced — 79% — has actually ended up in landfills or scattered around the world or burned, but not refashioned into new products, which is what we hope for when we talk about recycling,' Lerner says. 'For plastic bags, it's less than 1% of tens of billions that are used in the U.S. alone. And so overall in the U.S., our plastic recycling rate peaked in 2014 at 9.5% so that's less than 10%.'”



  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,584 admin

    Wow, I had no idea...

    This is definitely one reason TGN sells reusable sling bags in the store. I love mine :)

    more from that article....

    Now that China isn’t taking Americans’ plastic, it’s piling up at recycling facilities and going to poor countries that also don’t have the means to recycle some of those plastics, Lerner says.

    Instead of putting all of our focus into recycling, Enck says, one solution is to be more mindful consumers and try to buy less plastic.

    “We can't recycle our way out of this problem,” she says. “We have to buy less plastic, and we need American and other businesses to make less plastic. There are alternatives, and I want to emphasize even the most careful consumer has a hard time avoiding plastics.”

    So if recycling plastic is such a farce, why have we been doing it all these years? Lerner says going back to the 1970s, there have been efforts by the plastic industry to make recycling look good for the planet.

    “There are a lot of plastic industry efforts to sort of boost the image of plastic and of recycling that are targeting kids,” she says. “And one of them that I write about was a contest for the best plastic bag receptacle and these were things that you could use to collect plastic bags.”

    It was a heartwarming story, Lerner says, until she discovered who was behind the contest.

    “That contest was sponsored by A Bag's Life, which is a project of a group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is a lobbying group that actually fights against efforts to restrict plastic,” she says.

    Consumers can also encourage businesses to use less plastic in their packaging by writing to stores where they shop, Enck says, adding that putting pressure at the local level is the most effective way to bring change.

    “The political strength of the plastics lobby is so immense that it's very, very hard to get anything significant through at the state level, and I just can't imagine in this political climate getting anything good at the federal level,” Enck says. “So we've got to really work from the bottom up.”

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,353 admin

    Here is the good news! People are figuring out how to turn that plastic into fuel. Hydrocarbons are hydrocarbons… I recently heard about a system that would forced finely ground plastics through a tube heated by an oven fueled by wood, being turned into biochar...

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,353 admin

    Oh, and folks are also isolating fungi that eat plastic

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    I love my sling bags, too, @Marjory Wildcraft! They're great for harvesting, among lots of other things!

  • Desiree
    Desiree Posts: 255 ✭✭✭

    It is a constant battle when you consider that just about every product we buy and use is made of plastic.

  • pamelamackenzie
    pamelamackenzie Posts: 143 ✭✭✭

    And when the big box stores sell bottle water in bulk at about 7 cents per bottle, it is hard to get people to stop buying it.

  • DebiB
    DebiB Posts: 92 ✭✭✭

    Trying to look at the positive side of the plastic situation I’d say there’s potential for great opportunities here. Some ideas have already been mentioned in the comments, like using reusable bags or studying if fungus can breakdown plastic. There could be some great way to recycle plastic into a very useful product just waiting to be discovered. Or perhaps a new material developed that works like plastic but is more environmentally friendly. Someone’s million dollar idea is in there somewhere.