There’s a lot to worry about these days, to be sure. But don’t overlook the bigger picture.
Our planet is in trouble, and it’s up to all of us to nurse it back to health.
So it’s more than a little distressing that Americans are recycling only about 5% of plastic waste, according to a new report.
The research from Beyond Plastics and the Last Beach Cleanup uses government data to determine that not only are we recycling a paltry amount of plastics we use, but we’re doing less and less of it.
In 2018, Americans recycled 8.7% of their plastics. Now the figure is between 5% and 6%.
“The plastics industry must stop lying to the public about plastics recycling,” says Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It does not work, it never will work, and no amount of false advertising will change that. Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, usage and disposal of plastics.”
Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans and waterways every year. Turtles, birds and other wildlife can become trapped in discarded plastic or die from ingesting it.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the average American generates about 287 pounds of plastic waste annually.
The United States produces almost twice as much plastic as China, and more than the entire European Union combined.
Compounding the problem, most plastics are made from fossil fuels and can take hundreds of years to naturally decompose.
The solution is twofold. First, manufacturers must become more diligent in promoting recycling and in taking a more hands-on approach to the lifecycle of their products — from factory to landfill.
Second, consumers need to assume greater responsibility for recycling plastics. That can be as simple as making sure such materials end up in the blue garbage bin.
It also means not simply discarding or tossing aside plastic waste as if it’s someone else’s problem.
It’s not. It’s everyone’s problem.
And Mother Nature will thank you for doing your share.