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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Recycling is not the solution to plastic pollution

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Do you know where your plastic goes when you toss it in the recycling bin? Only 9% of plastic waste that enters recycling facilities gets processed properly.1 Recycling is not the solution to plastic pollution you think it is.

This November 15th on America Recycles Day, EARTHDAY.ORG and our worldwide partners encourage you to End Plastic Pollution by being more aware of where your plastic waste goes, fighting against the wasteful single use plastics practices encouraged by industry and poor policies alike, and reducing plastics consumption overall.

The popularity of single use plastics is damaging to both human society and global ecosystems. Corporations have few restrictions on how much plastic waste they can make and little financial incentive to change their ways. Only 100 companies are behind 90% of global single-use plastic production.2 The burden to limit plastic pollution should not be placed on the everyday consumer. It’s not your fault, it’s theirs.

AfDB Circular Economy
A woman places plastic waste in a bin, Lagos, Nigeria | Photo: African Development Bank Group

While the reasoning behind plastic recycling is sound, it’s not the be-all and end-all of environmental advocacy; the vast majority of plastic that enters recycling facilities worldwide does not get properly recycled.

  • Only 5% of plastics produced in the United States are properly recycled. That’s just 2.4 million tons out of 51 million tons of plastic waste.3
  • Plastic waste takes upwards of 450 years to fully degrade,4 as well as additionally releasing countless microplastics into the environment that can carry chemical contaminants and cause serious cell damage if ingested. 5
  • Plastic production has skyrocketed in recent years: 50% of all plastics ever made were produced within the last 2 decades.6 With so little properly recycled, the amount dumped into landfills has dramatically increased as well.

If global plastic usage continues as usual, plastic waste will triple by 2060.7 With half of that amount directly entering landfills, this is a future we cannot afford to live in.

Join us in our fight against plastic pollution and other issues facing the planet. Your support today will help spread awareness throughout the environmental movement.

In Solidarity,

Aidan Charron
End of Plastics Coordinator, EarthDay.org


Resources:

1. National Geographic: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/whopping-91-percent-plastic-isnt-recycled

2. Stockholm Environmental Institute: https://www.sei.org/featured/20-companies-responsible-for-most-single-use-plastic-waste/

3. NPR: https://www.npr.org/2022/10/24/1131131088/recycling-plastic-is-practically-impossible-and-the-problem-is-getting-worse

4. World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/06/recycling-global-statistics-facts-plastic-paper/

5. Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01143-3

6. National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution

7. OECD: https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/global-plastic-waste-set-to-almost-triple-by-2060.htm

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