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.
- 3 Reasons Why Plastic Pollution Is an Environmental Justice Issue ... ›
- U.S. Recyclers in 'Mounting Crisis' After China's Plastic Waste Ban ... ›
- Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act ›
- Coca-Cola Says It Won't Break Free From Plastic Bottles - EcoWatch ›
- How Australia Plans to Recycle its Way to Recovery After COVID-19 ›
- What Happens to Recycled Plastic? Researchers Lift the Lid ›
By Robin Scher
Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.
- Can Urban Farms Prevent Hunger in 54 Million People in the U.S. ... ›
- New Report Finds Malnutrition World's Top Killer Amid Pandemic ... ›
- Oxfam Warns 12,000 Could Die Per Day From Hunger Due to ... ›
- Three Ways to Support a Healthy Food System During the COVID ... ›
- Trump USDA Resumes Effort to Cut Food Stamp Benefits - EcoWatch ›
- Pandemic Threatens Food Security for Many College Students ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.
As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.
- 15 Top Conservation Issues of 2021 Include Big Threats, Potential ... ›
- How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy - EcoWatch ›
By David Drake and Jeffrey York
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.
- Major Milestone: More than 100,000 MW Worth of Coal-Fired Power ... ›
- Coal Will Not Bring Appalachia Back to Life, But Tech and ... ›
- Renewables Beat Coal in the U.S. for the First Time This April ... ›