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Don’t give up on recycling plastics

18 2 0
22.09.2020

Is plastics recycling a lie? That’s the question at the heart of a new investigation into whether Americans have been filling up their blue bins with misplaced hope.

The evidence on the side of recycling doesn’t look good. As far back as 1974, industry insiders were doubting whether plastics could ever be recycled economically. More recently, China’s decision to severely restrict its import of recyclables has left much of the world looking for new places to send used plastics — and falling short. Most damaging of all, waste plastics aren’t valuable, and “never have been,” according to authors of the investigation (a joint undertaking by National Public Radio and PBS’s “Frontline”).

It’s a disturbing story that’s roiling the industry and upsetting environmentalists. But Americans shouldn’t turn their backs on plastic recycling just yet. The production and use of plastics in emerging markets is growing rapidly, and there’s no reason to think that demand will weaken. Without a recycling solution, those tonnages are bound for landfills and incinerators. Fortunately, the global recycling industry has a history of transforming what was previously “unrecyclable” into useful products. It’s poised to do so again.

Recycling is as old as manufacturing. Garments have long been repurposed into rags; swords have been remelted into plough shares. The Industrial Revolution, which created new demand........

© The Japan Times


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