Plastic Recycling Is Not What You Think
In a fascinating and insightful video, Rollie Williams, a climate science graduate student, skillfully unveiled the illusion that is plastic recycling. The video’s comedic delivery does not dull the alarming revelations it contains. It paints a vivid picture of how powerful industries have manipulated the concept of recycling and deceived the public for decades.
The narrative begins in the 1940s during World War II. The U.S. government motivated plastics companies to produce a flexible, lightweight material that would be beneficial to the war effort. In doing so, it unintentionally gave birth to the modern plastic industry, which sprang out from existing fossil fuel corporations and the chemical industry.
In the post-war era, Americans began to reuse plastic. However, lobby groups counteracted this by promoting a throwaway culture with advertisements encouraging consumers to discard and replace plastic items, promoting a concept of an unlimited, consequence-free supply of fossil fuels.
The plastic industry faced a significant obstacle in 1970: Earth Day. The public outcry led to political action against environmental pollution, posing a threat to the prosperity of plastic manufacturers. In response, the industry, alongside fossil fuel corporations, formed a front group called Keep America Beautiful. They crafted a potent narrative, blaming the public for pollution through a deceptive campaign.
In 1987, as calls for the end of single-use items intensified, the plastics industry employed a new strategy to prevent plastic bans. Despite internal industry documents clearly showing that plastic recycling was not economically viable, the industry invested heavily in promoting the concept of plastic recycling, creating a false sense of security among the public about plastic consumption.
An ingenious move was the introduction of the resin identification code (RIC). To an unsuspecting eye, RIC, introduced in 1988, resembled the recycling symbol. This symbol is found on every piece of plastic, though most plastics cannot be effectively recycled, and creating new plastic from fossil fuels is invariably cheaper.
Since its introduction, the industry has manipulated the recycling campaigns to its advantage, promoting them whenever environmental activism threatened their operations. This strategy successfully maintained the narrative that recycling was working, even though only 10% of plastics have ever been recycled.
So, what does this mean for the future? It highlights the need to demystify recycling and elevate the importance of reducing and reusing. As consumers, we must also recognize that individual actions alone cannot solve this problem; legislation played a significant role in creating it, and it should play an equally significant part in resolving it.
The fight against plastic pollution requires a collective effort, with numerous groups advocating for stricter plastic regulations. Despite the daunting challenge, we must join forces to pressure our governments to pass bans on single-use plastics, providing a meaningful response to a problem that threatens our planet.
In conclusion, the video leaves us with an undeniable truth: The plastic recycling narrative is a scam orchestrated by the plastics industry. The path to sustainable plastic use lies in reducing, reusing, and making informed decisions at a legislative level. If you’re interested in joining this fight, consider supporting the organizations advocating for plastic regulations. Together, we can make a significant impact.
Watch the full video here.