Plastic pollution is a global menace. In. his latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver exposes how the plastics industry has managed to pull off one of the biggest scams on the public by persuading us that tackling plastic pollution is our responsibility and urging us to ever greater recycling efforts while making false promises about their own efforts to reduce plastic contamination. In one episode of his excellent series Adam Ruins Everything, host Adam Conover made some similar points.
One of their triumphs was to get legislatures to force manufacturers to put those triangles on almost all plastic items, suggesting that they can all be recycled when in fact most of them can’t. Only those with the numbers 1 and 2 have a reasonable shot at being recycled. Worse, by having the public think that all of them can be recycled, it contaminates the plastic pool making it harder to even recycle the plastic that can be. What then happens is that the ‘recycled’ plastic from the US ends up in landfills all over the world.
The best thing we can do is to dispose of all plastics with numbers 3 and higher in the trash and not in the recycling bins, enact legislation that creates strong disincentives for single use plastics by manufacturers, and put the burden for reducing plastic pollution where it really belongs, on the manufacturers and not the public. Some countries are doing just that.