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 ›
France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.
- Could a Tax on International Travel Fund a Country's Response to ... ›
- Most People in the UK Back Limits on Flying to Tackle Climate Crisis ... ›
- To Fly or Not to Fly? The Environmental Cost of Air Travel - EcoWatch ›
Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.
- Drones Capture Stunning Footage of Humpback and Gray Whales ... ›
- Ninth Gray Whale in Two Months Washes Up Dead in Bay Area ... ›
- As Extreme Weather Events Increase, What Are the Risks to Wildlife? ›
- 'Existential Threat to Our Survival': See the 19 Australian ... ›
- Cyclone Harold Batters Fiji, Tonga Could Be Next - EcoWatch ›
- 2 Killed, Thousands Evacuated as Cyclone Yesa Slams Fiji ... ›
By Rishika Pardikar
Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.
Biden Refuses to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline, Despite Campaign Pledges on Tribal Relations and Climate
By Jessica Corbett
Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.
- After Court Rules Dakota Access Pipeline Operating Illegally, Dems ... ›
- Environmentalists Applaud Biden Selections of Granholm, McCarthy ... ›
- Biden Urged to 'Honor Indigenous Sovereignty and Immediately Halt ... ›