To the editor: Plastics recycling proves to be a boondoggle

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

I am writing to discuss the failures of recycling and why we can no longer rely on it to reverse the effects of the climate crisis. As the fossil fuel industry diminishes slightly each year, Big Oil now has its eye on something else: plastic.

The issue with this is that it can take up to 500 years for certain plastics to disintegrate and — contrary to popular belief — not all plastics can be recycled. Different types of plastics cannot be recycled together, they must be separated by number and even then it is not a guarantee that it will be recycled. What gets recycled depends largely on current market demand for particular types of plastic. If there is no demand, recycling becomes useless. Furthermore, recycling programs differ greatly from place to place. In some areas of the United States, recycling programs still do not exist.

This means that all the plastic that has ever been manufactured still exists somewhere in our ecosystem. Furthermore, estimates reveal that of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced only 9 percent has been recycled. The truth is most of the plastic ends up in landfills and oceans. And in 2019, American exporters shipped more than 1 billion pounds of plastic to developing countries such as Kenya and Vietnam. Indigenous communities and marine life have long borne the brunt of our plastic trash.

Although there have been great strides in reducing plastic usage, especially single-use plastics such as statewide plastic bag and straw bans, it is imperative that we as citizens continue to advocate and fight for our environment by holding corporations and legislators accountable. While it is important to recycle and compost when we have a chance, these individual actions cannot amount to much if the corporations most responsible for the majority of today’s pollution do not also change their ways.


Yasmin Antmann

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