Only 5% of plastic waste generated by US last year was recycled, report says


Only 5% of the mountains of plastic waste generated by US households last year was recycled, according to new research by Greenpeace.

Americans discarded 51m tons of wrappers, bottles and bags in 2021 – about 309lb of plastic per person – of which almost 95% ended up in landfills, oceans or scattered in the atmosphere in tiny toxic particles.

The plastics problem is not just down to wanton consumerism or laziness – in fact the situation would still be bad even if every household separated every piece of plastic and disposed of it in a dedicated recycling plant, according to Greenpeace.

Not a single type of plastic packaging in the US meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new plastic economy initiative, the report found.

Even plastics long considered recyclable – bottles and jugs (PET #1 and HDPE #2) –fall far short of the 30% recycling rate needed to meet the definition of recyclable by the foundation. The reprocessing rate for the rest of the plastics used by millions of people everyday to wrap leftovers, eat takeout or return unwanted online purchases is less than 5%.

The recycling sham will anger those who have spent time diligently washing out plastic containers and bottles, in the belief that they’d end up reprocessed and repurposed into another plastic package the world probably didn’t need.

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The Guardian, 24-10-22