U.S. Products Labeled Recyclable Really Aren’t, Greenpeace Report Says
Just because that plastic item you rinsed out and placed in your blue bin says it is recyclable doesn't mean it actually is.
"Retailers and consumer goods companies across the country are frequently putting labels on their products that mislead the public and harm America's recycling systems," Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar said in a press release. "Instead of getting serious about moving away from single-use plastic, corporations are hiding behind the pretense that their throwaway packaging is recyclable. We know now that this is untrue. The jig is up."
Greenpeace surveyed the U.S.'s 367 MRFs and found that they can only really process two types of plastic:
- PET #1
- HDPE #2 bottles and jugs
These two plastic types are reliably recyclable because there is high demand for them and because U.S. facilities have the capacity to process them. But plastics labeled #3 to #7 cannot reliably be called recyclable, the report found.
Only 14 percent of the facilities surveyed accepted plastic clamshells, only 11 percent accepted plastic cups, only four percent accepted plastic bags and only one percent accepted straws, cutlery and stirrers, The Hill reported. In addition, plastic shrink wrap added to #1 and #2 plastics can render them unrecyclable, Greenpeace said.
"[O]ur findings show that many items commonly found in beach cleanups – cups, bags, trays, plates and cutlery – are not recyclable. In America's municipal recycling system, they are contaminants," Jan Dell, the founder of the Last Beach Cleanup and the leader of Greenpeace's survey team, told The Guardian.
Yet despite this, Greenpeace found that several popular brands including Target, Nestlé, Danone, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Aldi, SC Johnson and Unilever had sold products with misleading labels. Greenpeace has asked the companies to correct their labelling. If they do not, the organization will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Greenpeace's results are in keeping with a Guardian report from last year that found that many U.S. plastics were being sent straight to landfills after China stopped accepting recycling exports in 2018.
"This survey confirms what many news reports have indicated since China restricted plastic waste imports two years ago — that recycling facilities across the country are not able to sort, sell, and reprocess much of the plastic that companies produce," Dell said in the press release.
But the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which represents companies that are working to improve their products, told The Guardian this might be changing.
"I think our industry is rebuilding and adding capacity and that's a good thing," coalition director Nina Goodrich told The Guardian. "We should be processing our material at home."
Others argued the solution was to shift who pays for plastic recycling. This was the position of Kate Bailey, a manager at Boulder, Colorado's Eco-Cycle Solutions who explained her argument to The Guardian:
"The silver lining is that we're starting to have some conversations about who should be paying for recycling," she said. "Turning to cities and residents to pay for recycling is not the way it should be going."
"We [the recyclers] are the scapegoats, but we don't control how products are made," she said. "If manufacturers are going to make these products, they should be buying them back. They can be the ones closing the loop."
Bailey's idea is beginning to gain traction. Just last week, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, which would require plastic producers to design and fund their own recycling programs.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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