Plastic items are useful and convenient, but they also come with a high environmental cost. You probably assume that when you toss plastic into the recycling bin it will be processed and turned into something new.
The truth is that only a fraction of plastic is actually recycled. According to the most recent data estimates available from the Environmental Protection Agency, just 8.7 percent of the plastic that was discarded in the U.S. in 2018 was recycled.
The popular perception that plastic recycling is easily and it is being widely recycled has been shaped by decades of carefully calculated messaging designed and paid for by the petroleum and gas companies that make most of that plastic in the first place, and the beverage companies that depend on plastic to bottle their products.
Recycling is sold as a means of not worrying about the problem.
The companies paying for the ads that frame recycling as an easy solution to a potentially devastating environmental problem know that recycling cannot keep up with the flood of new plastic.
One of four things happens to plastic after you’re done with it. If it’s not recycled—and it’s usually not—it is land-filled, incinerated, or littered.
Experts say that while cutting back on plastic use is a worthy individual goal, the only way to stem the rising tide of plastic is for companies to make less of it and for recycling programs to be retooled so that more of what we throw away is actually turned into something useful.
Reference- Forbes, EPA website, Science Advances, The Guardian, Business Insider, Consumer Reports