Today is America Recycles Day, brought to you by The American Chemistry Council, Pepsico, Nestle, and other mega corporations hoping that YOU will take responsibility for the plastic waste THEY produce so they won’t have to.
“America Manages To Toss Disposable Packaging Into The Recycling Bin When It’s Convenient” Day
When most people tell you they recycle, what they mean is that they put their bottles, containers, paper, cans, etc. into the recycle bin instead of the trash bin. Then, they can forget about it. That’s not recycling. That’s sorting. Recycling is what hopefully happens after the materials are hauled away and sold to the companies that convert the “waste” materials into new products. How much of what we put into our recycle bins is actually recycled? It all depends on the market.
In the case of plastic, most of the material is downcycled into secondary products like carpeting and polar fleece that usually cannot be recycled further. It’s a slower process to the landfill. But it does nothing to reduce the need for virgin plastic to keep producing more disposable bags and containers and bottles.
Recycling is necessary, but it’s not the answer to the plastic pollution problem!
As long as we are addicted to single-use disposable products and packaging, we will need recycling systems, just like we need garbage hauling for the waste that can’t be recycled or composted. But where does our plastic “recycling” go after it’s hauled away? Usually, to China, where whole communities are sickened by the toxic emissions from this supposedly green solution. Take a look at this video tracking plastic recycling from a town in Britain to a small community in China. It’s several years old, and this particular facility has been shut down. But as long as the majority of our plastic recycling is shipped overseas, these are the kinds of conditions we will help to create.
Buying Products from Recycled Materials
The American Chemistry Council released a statement a few days ago: Most Americans Say It Feels Green to Buy Recycled. No one can argue that a shirt made from recycled bottles isn’t greener than a brand new shirt made from virgin polyester. And since there is already so much plastic waste polluting the planet, it’s necessary to find ways to recover and reuse all that material. But recovery is only necessary because there’s so much plastic crap to begin with!
Community Recycling Supports the Plastics Industry
The ACC’s statement mentions not one word about reducing consumption. And it also completely avoids suggesting that plastics manufacturers practice Extended Producer Responsibility and create take back programs for the disposable products it manufactures. They want to reap the rewards and stick us with the monumental task of figuring out how to clean up the mess. We pay for recycling programs with our tax dollars, while the ACC fights bottle bills and bag fees at every turn.
Recycling is the LAST of the 4 R’s: REFUSE, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s a last resort when we’ve done the best we can to get disposable plastics out of our lives.
Recycling is necessary. But it’s not the final solution.