— Washington According to a research published by Greenpeace USA on Monday, plastic recycling rates are falling even as production soars. The analysis slams industry claims of building an efficient circular economy as “fantasy.”
The study, titled “Circular Claims Fail Again,” estimated that of the 51 million tons of plastic garbage created by U.S. households in 2021, just 2,4 million tons, or approximately five percent, were recycled. After reaching a peak of 10 percent in 2014, the trend has been declining, particularly after China stopped receiving plastic garbage from the West in 2018.
As the petrochemical sector increases and costs decline, virgin manufacturing — that is, production of non-recycled plastic — is increasing rapidly.
Greenpeace USA campaigner Lisa Ramsden told AFP, “Industry groups and large corporations have been pushing recycling as a solution.”
She continued, “By doing so, they have abdicated any duty” for ensuring that recycling is effective. She identified Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Nestle as the most egregious violators.
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According to a survey conducted by Greenpeace USA, only two forms of plastic are regularly accepted at the 375 material recovery facilities in the United States.
The first is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is typically found in water and soda bottles, and the second is high density polyethylene (HDPE), which is typically found in milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and cleaning product containers. These are numbered “1” and “2” according to a defined scheme that includes seven varieties of plastic.
However, theoretically recyclable materials are not necessarily recycled in practice.
The analysis indicated that the actual recycling rates for PET and HDPE materials were 20,9 percent and 10,3 percent, respectively, a little decrease from Greenpeace USA’s latest survey in 2020.
Less than five percent of plastic types “3” through “7” were reprocessed, including children’s toys, plastic bags, produce wrappings, yogurt and margarine tubs, coffee cups, and to-go food containers.
Despite frequently bearing the recycling symbol on their labels, products made from plastic types “3” through “7” do not qualify as recyclable according to the Federal Trade Commission.
60 percent of the population does not have access to recycling facilities for these categories, and the collected products are not used in the production or assembly of new products.
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According to the paper, plastic recycling is a “failed concept” for five primary reasons.
First, plastic debris is produced in large amounts and is incredibly difficult to collect, as demonstrated by the futile “volunteer cleanup stunts” supported by organizations such as “Keep America Beautiful,” according to the research.
Even if it were all gathered, mixed plastic garbage cannot be recycled together, and it would be “functionally impossible” to sort the billions of pieces of consumer plastic waste created year, according to the paper.
Thirdly, the recycling process itself is damaging to the environment, as it exposes employees to dangerous chemicals and produces microplastics.
Fourthly, recycled plastic carries toxicity hazards due to contamination with other types of plastic in collection bins, preventing it from being repurposed as food-grade material.
Fifth and last, the recycling procedure is extremely expensive.
According to the research, “new plastic competes directly with recycled plastic since it is significantly cheaper to create and of superior quality.”
Ramsden urged businesses to embrace the Global Plastics Treaty, which members of the United Nations agreed to construct in February, and to adopt refill and reuse programs.
“This is not a new concept; it was formerly how the milkman delivered milk and how Coca-Cola distributed its beverages. They would consume their beverage, then return the glass bottle to be sterilized and reused “She stated,
India, which has prohibited the use of 19 single-use plastic goods, is a leader in this regard. Austria has established reuse targets of at least 25 percent by 2025 and at least 30 percent by 2030 for beverage packaging, while Portugal has similarly established a target of 30 percent by 2030. Chile is in the process of eliminating single-use cutlery and legislating reusable bottles.