Along with the mother of the EPA, environmental activist organizations Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Cleanup released a disturbing report this month titled “The Real Truth About America’s Plastic Recycling Rate: 2021 Facts and Figures to United States”. Using data from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as well as US export and waste industry statistics, the report found that only 5-6% of plastic is recycled in the States. United in 2021.
We were already bad, but now we’re getting worse. In 2018, the last time the EPA released recycling numbers, we were at an 8.7% plastic recycling rate.
So, aside from the paltry amount of plastic we recycle, “the other 94% is thrown into landfills, burned in incinerators or ends up polluting our oceans, waterways and landscapes after being used just once, often for just a few minutes.” Beyond Plastics writes. Moreover, even what is recycled is problematic: “The plastic recycling process itself is wasteful, with 30% of the plastic material from collected PET bottles being disposed of [of] in the recycling process.
“The plastics industry needs to stop lying to the public about recycling plastics. It doesn’t work, it never will, and no amount of false advertising will change that,” said Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and former regional administrator. from the US EPA.
“Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, use and disposal of plastics.”
The report notes that some public policies have effectively reduced plastic consumption, namely “banning plastic bags, banning plastic bottled water coupled with water filling stations and reuse”.
They also note that paper has a recycling rate of 66%, according to the American Forest and Products Association.
The report is freely downloadable here.