A recent study analyzing the global plastic supply chain found that the impact of plastic products, in general, are causing greater harm to the environment than previously thought. The study points to the increased use of coal as a heat source to manufacture plastic products along with the electricity demand needed to generate production. The second part of the equation is getting rid of these materials.

Who on planet earth does not rely on plastic? We all have grown accustomed to plastic making our everyday lives convenient. It’s cheap, useful and extremely popular. Here is a staggering statistic that backs that claim: global demand has increased 400% in the past 40 years with no end in sight. If you live in an area that recycles (I personally do), it makes you feel good about using plastic because, it’s being re-purposed – right?

Well, here are the facts about plastic recycling. It actually costs more to recycle plastic products than it does to manufacture new ones. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is not a good incentive for companies (especially plastic manufactures) to actually recycle anything. Your local carting company needs to hand sort through waste in order to put plastic containers in their proper groups before they can be sent to manufacturing facilities for eventual re-purposing. Moreover, I know people who live one township away from where I’m located that are not required to recycle at all. What’s up with that? For years, we sent these massive piles on barges to China, as the labor was cheap. That’s not the case anymore and China does not want our plastic waste. So why are some municipalities recycling while others aren’t?

The ugly truth is  that the plastic industry, in many areas across the country, actually subsidizes the recycling efforts of local municipalities through creative means. As a matter of fact, the plastic industry is so lucrative, it is they who created the entire ‘let’s recycle to save the planet’ movement. No different than any other industry’s marketing campaigns, it was all a marketing scheme to deflect the harm plastics are creating for the environment in order to continue cranking out product for profit. They know it’s a money loser to recycle, but need a positive public sentiment surrounding the use of plastic. The entire plastic recycling movement is nothing but window dressing.

I don’t know about you, but all of this is very unsettling to me. I’ve been recycling for 20 years, all the while thinking I’m being a good steward of planet earth. The fact is, most of my efforts are for naught, as most of this plastic is not being recycled. It’s a mystery as to where these plastics at the end of their life cycle actually end up, I’ll follow up with another article on that topic in the future. With all of our advanced technology, one would think that we would have a better plan on how to responsibly dispose of plastic products. I don’t have the answer, but common sense would dictate: let’s start forcing the plastic industry to subsidize (with oversight) recycling efforts across the globe. Recycling works if you actually do it!

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