Why Recycling is a ‘Pseudo-Solution’ to Reducing Plastic Waste

By Anna Buss for CounterPunch.org on March 29, 2019

Decades of consumerism, fueled by the concept of short-term convenience, has left our planet drowning in plastic waste.  Much of it is used just once and then thrown away, polluting oceans and contaminating our bodies.  At the center of this problem lies the effectiveness of eliminating plastic while its production remains high and there are fewer places that process it.  As a result, a few corporations and communities are being forced to deal with waste in other ways rather than recycling — the main form of plastic disposal many people have relied on over the years.

“The public opinion about [recycling] is very naive,” says Rowland Geyer, a Professor of Industrial Ecology at University of California Santa Barbara, who specializes in green supply chain management. Geyer wants to make one thing clear: recycling by itself is a ‘pseudo solution’ to eliminating plastic waste. “[People] recycle because they believe in it, but it is not a real part of the solution,” he adds.

In fact, eliminating plastic becomes almost a surreal idea when considering the staggering amount of plastic discarded each year.  In its June 2018 edition ‘Planet or Plastic, National Geographic’s Laura Parker’s bombshell article uncovered that 44% of all plastic that has ever been manufactured globally has been made since 2000.  Additionally, 448 million tons of plastic was produced in 2015 alone, with 40 percent of that — some 161 million tons — for single-use packaging that never gets recycled or incinerated.  In fact, until 2018, less than a fifth of all plastics was ever recycled, and only 12% was incinerated globally.  As a result, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic bottles A 2016 study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has projected that if considerable reduction in production is not implemented, oceans could have more plastic than fish by 2050.

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