The truth about our recycled plastic
he time for Americans to be honest about “recycling” may have arrived. Thank the Chinese for forcing us into a discussion we should have had years ago.
Millions of Americans separate materials such as paper, glass, cardboard and plastic from their garbage, placing the items in recycling bins.
Then, homeowners either deliver the used material to recycling centers or wait to have it picked up.
By keeping non-biodegradable substances such as plastic out of landfills, most recyclers believe they are doing the environment a favor.
Why just dump it when it can be reused?
Trouble is, much of it isn’t reused.
It is dumped in landfills.
Indeed, in 2014, for example, Americans discarded some 33.6 million tons of plastic, but only 9.5 percent of it was recycled, while 15 percent was combusted to generate electricity or heat.
Most of the rest ended up in landfills.
That is why so many recycling programs lose money and have to be subsidized by customers or taxpayers in general.
Now, China has banned imports of plastic waste.
About 45 percent of that material from throughout the world has gone to China for the past quarter-century.
Chinese recyclers have used some of the plastics. The rest goes to landfills, and the Chinese are tired of being the world’s dump.
Without China to accept shipments of plastics many Americans thought were destined to be processed for reuse, costs for many U.S. recycling programs will increase.
More plastic will be dumped here.
There must be a better way to deal with plastic waste than to lie, in effect, about it being recycled.
We Americans need to being thinking about that.