By now, many of us have heard the depressing statistic about plastic recycling: Of the 5.8 billion metric tons of plastic waste that the world generated between 1950 and 2015, only about 9 percent has been recycled, leaving the rest to be incinerated, landfilled, or littered directly into the environment.
Until recently, that number was still accurate for the United States, which — according to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA — recycled about 8.7 percent of its plastic refuse in 2018. But a new report from the nonprofit The Last Beach Cleanup and the advocacy group Beyond Plastics finds that the U.S.’s plastic recycling rate is now significantly lower, with just 5 or 6 percent of the country’s plastic waste converted into new products in 2021.
According to the organizations, their findings highlight the dismal failure of plastics recycling and add weight to allegations that the plastics industry has been disingenuous in its promotion of recycling as a solution to the plastic pollution crisis. Just last week, the attorney general of California announced a first-of-its-kind investigation into fossil fuel and petroche... Read more