Why Recycling? As Plastic Ban Battles Rage On, Recycling Is Shown In a New Light

by Liz Skolnick

A lot of states and even some countries like Canada have recently placed bans on problem plastics like single-use items (think disposable forks and plastic shopping bags). This trend has been sweeping whole regions across the globe, and some of the more environmentally-conscious areas of the U.S.

Interestingly, this process has raised some questions about the logic behind recycling - with respect to plastics, but also to the practice in general. Along the way it has unearthed some rather dark truths about how we got started recycling as a country in the first place.

The “waste management pyramid” places waste prevention/reduction at the top, then comes reuse and finally recycling. Since recycling has caught on and grown in popularity since the 1970’s, the tacit implication was that waste prevention/reduction was “just too hard” to do in any real and impactful way. But, thankfully, some of these assumptions are now being questioned, and more and more articles are coming out exposing how the practice of having everyday citizens recycle - and (through taxes) foot the bill, along with their municipalities - was the centerpiece of an effort by beverage and petroleum product/manufacturing (plastics) industry lobbies to deflect support and attention away from efforts to ban, tax and otherwise reduce the amount of plastic flowing into the waste stream, our cities and towns, and eventually, our rivers, oceans and even our own bodies.

That’s right, microplastics are now in the food we eat and the water we drink, and we are all becoming increasingly aware of how they got there. I hope your interest is piqued. To that end, please do take a few minutes to read this excellent investigative piece examining the origins of recycling, and its links to powerful industry lobby groups who turned a blind eye to the problems plastic was creating and continues to create today:

“Inside the Long War to Protect Plastic” (The Center for Public Integrity)


Further reading:

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America's dirty secret:
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/recycled-plastic-america-global-crisis