HomeTop StoriesCritics slam the plastics industry for 'plastic recycling fraud'

Critics slam the plastics industry for ‘plastic recycling fraud’

Jan Dell is a former chemical engineer who spent years telling the uncomfortable truth about plastics. “So many people see the recyclable label and put it in the trash,” she said. “But the vast majority of plastics are not recycled.”

Approximately 48 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually in the US; According to the Department of Energy, only 5 to 6 percent of it is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or is incinerated.

Dell founded a nonprofit organization, The Last Beach Cleanup, to combat plastic pollution. In her garage in Southern California there are all kinds of plastic with those little arrows on them that make us think they can be recycled. But she said, “You’re being lied to.”

These so-called hunting arrows appeared on plastic products in 1988, as part of an effort to convince the public that plastic waste was not a problem because it could be recycled.

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CBS News


Davis Allen, a research scholar at the Center for Climate Integrity, said the industry did not need recycling to function: “They needed people to to believe that it worked,” he said.

A new report, called ‘The Fraud of Plastic Recycling’, accuses the plastics industry of a decades-long campaign ‘…to mislead the public about the viability of plastic recycling’, despite knowing about the ‘technical and economic limitations that make plastics unrecyclable’. on a large scale.

“They could never lie about the existence of plastic waste,” says Allen. “But they made up a lie about how we could solve it, and that was recycling.”

Tracy wondered, “If plastic recycling is technically difficult, if it doesn’t make much economic sense, why has the plastics industry put pressure on it?”

“The plastics industry understands that selling recycling sells plastic, and they will say just about anything they have to say to keep doing that,” Allen responded. “That’s how they make money.”

Plastic is made from oil and gas and comes in thousands of varieties, most of which cannot be recycled together. But in the 1980s, when some municipalities began banning plastic products, the industry began to promote the idea of ​​recycling as a solution.

Allen showed us documents and minutes they had obtained from public archives and from a former employee of the American Plastics Council. “What we see here is widespread knowledge that recycling plastic didn’t work,” he said.

At a 1989 trade conference in Florida, an industry leader told attendees, “Recycling cannot continue indefinitely and will not solve the solid waste problem.”

In 1994, an Exxon executive told Plastics Council staff that when it comes to recycling, “We are committed to the activities, but not the results.”

Allen said, “They always saw recycling not as a real technical problem to solve, but as a PR problem.”

The industry has just launched a new ad campaign called ‘Recycling is real’, and says it is investing in what it calls advanced recycling technology.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, responded in a statement to “CBS Sunday Morning,” calling the Center for Climate Integrity’s report “flawed” and “outdated,” and saying that “plastic manufacturers are working hard to change the way changing how plastics are produced’. are made and recycled.”

Jan Dell doesn’t believe plastic will ever be truly recyclable: “It’s the same process they tried 30 years ago, and my answer to that is: It’s science fiction,” she said.

Plastic production is set to triple by 2050, and with so much plastic waste piling up on land and in the sea, more than 170 countries are working toward a United Nations treaty to end plastic pollution.

In a letter to President Biden about the negotiations, the plastics industry says it is against any ban on the production of plastic, but is in favor of more recycling.

To which Dell says, “The only thing the plastic industry has actually recycled is their lies over and over again.”


For more information:


Story produced by John Goodwin. Editor: Emanuele Secci.


Also see:


Drowning in plastic waste

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