With the EPA mum, this month environmental activist organizations Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Cleanup released a disturbing report called "The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastic Recycling Rate: 2021 U.S. Facts and Figures." Culling data from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine as well as statistics on U.S. exports and from the waste industry, the report found just 5% to 6% of plastic was recycled in the U.S. in 2021.
We were already bad, but now we're getting worse. In 2018—the last time the EPA published recycling figures—we were at an 8.7% plastic recycling rate.
So aside from the paltry amount of plastic we do recycle, "the other 94% is disposed of in landfills, burned in incinerators, or ends up polluting our ocean, waterways, and landscapes after being used just once, often for mere minutes," Beyond Plastics writes. Furthermore, even the stuff that does get recycled is problematic: "The plastic recycling process itself is wasteful, with 30% of collected PET bottle plastic material disposed [of] in the recycling process."
"The plastics industry must stop lying to the public about plastics recycling. It does not work, it never will work, and no amount of false advertising will change that," says Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former U.S. E.P.A. Regional Administrator.
"Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, usage, and disposal of plastics."
The report does note that some public policies have effectively reduced plastics consumption, namely "plastic bag bans, plastic bottled water bans coupled with water filling stations, and reuse systems."
They also note that paper has a recycling rate of 66%, according to the American Forest and Products Association.
The report is freely downloadable here.
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There might be a correlation to thewaronthehomeless measures used by fast food/convience stores, not just because of the pandemic but we'll before hand: banning multi-use/refillable cups, charging for water at soda fountains, or removing water all together as an option. Same goes for coffee drinkers who bought into refill programs from their favorite establishments... Only to be told, they can no longer use their refillable cup due to health concerns. Bollocks. I don't understand such a convoluted, and quite frankly socialist, behavioral subscription/participation... Use the dern cup and get over this germaphobia. Ice is inorganic and does not transmit coronavirus... I would suspect equal hardship from coffee dispensers. Grow up. Get over being individually wrapped, when POD living is the only affordable housing suggested by the left. Leave me and my rusty coffee mug be!
It comes down to policy. Take a look at the effectiveness of Bottle Bill. Unfortunately Coca-Cola and Pepsi spend millions each year making sure no other states become Bottle Bill. If the government mandated that all single use plastics were PET (easy to recycle) and colored Red (easy to identify/sort) the MRF's could actually make money and reclaim a lot of material. As it is right now, only #1, #2, #5 bottles are reclaimed. Everything that is not a bottle, and not one of those plastics goes to landfill.
I am in the plastic cup business mostly for ice cream. It is depressing that there isn't yet a better way to safely consistently and at a low cost deliver ice cream deliver to people's mouths without plastic. We have lowered the weight of cups substantially, but often brands prefer heavy beasts for single use.
Hello my name is Stephanie and I work for an environmental company that has the solutions to the world waste problems. We have a process that is able to mechinally separate plastics by kinds and we have found ways to reuse all types of plastics. Please view our website www.nulixocorp.com