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Report: The Majority of Plastic Put in Recycling Bins Ends Up in Landfills

Report: The Majority of Plastic Put in Recycling Bins Ends Up in Landfills

A new report has found that all the effort to recycle plastic has essentially been a waste.

Greenpeace USA has released a new report that reveals most plastic simply cannot be recycled, despite our best efforts. U.S. households generate roughly 51 million tons of plastic waste per year, but only 2.4 million tons are actually recycled.

The report shared that no type of plastic packaging in the U.S. meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy (EMF NPE) Initiative. By EMF NPE standards, an item must have a 30 percent recycling rate to receive the “recyclable” classification.

So, your Coke bottles and most of the other stuff you’re putting in the blue bin is getting sent to the landfill.

The report found that most common plastics in the U.S. that many often believe to be recyclable fall well below the EMF NPE threshold. This includes common plastics found in bottles and jugs. When these products don’t meet the EMF NPE standards, they are sent to landfills and throw in with other trash that will be burned away, leading to widespread toxic gas emissions and worsening climate conditions.

Single-use plastics are like trillions of pieces of confetti spewed from retail and fast food stores to over 330 million U.S. residents across more than 3 million square miles each year,” said Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace USA Senior Plastics Campaigner. “It’s simply not possible to collect the vast quantity of these small pieces of plastic sold to U.S. consumers annually. More plastic is being produced, and an even smaller percentage of it is being recycled. The crisis just gets worse and worse, and, without drastic change, will continue to worsen as the industry plans to triple plastic production by 2050.”

The report includes several steps companies should consider taking to mitigate the problems associated with plastic recycling, from phasing out single-use plastics to adopting a Global Plastics Treaty to help set international standards.

“Corporations like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever have worked with industry front groups to promote plastic recycling as the solution to plastic waste for decades. But the data is clear: practically speaking, most plastic is just not recyclable,” Ramsden said. “The real solution is to switch to systems of reuse and refill.”

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