Is There Any Hope For Plastic Recycling? Earth Day 2021
Plastic tends to be a concern among environmentalists who fear that the artificial material — which is not indigenous to any natural setting on the planet but is found in many of the products we use every day — is slowly polluting the Earth, as millions of tons are generated and disposed annually…
Is There Any Hope For Plastic Recycling? Earth Day 2021
…but the fact that almost 35.7 million tons of plastic was produced in the United States alone in 2018 — according to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States — should not be a problem. After all, plastic can be recycled, as indicated by that little triangle with the number inside of it at the bottom of bottles and other items which are manufactured as plastic. Simply toss it into the proper bin; and it will find a new life as a different plastic item and not simply be left somewhere to take centuries to finally decompose while leaching chemicals into the soil or water in the process…
…or so the public at large was led to believe by the major oil companies, as one investigative report accuses “big oil” of lying and betraying the public trust pertaining to the viability of recycling the now-ubiquitous material.
“Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups”, according to this article by Laura Sullivan of National Public Radio — which is better known as NPR. “None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.”
The problem is that recycling plastic may be friendly to the environment — but doing so is often more expensive than simply disposing of the items in the trash or burning it.
Take a look at the following chart which is included in the aforementioned report from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States:
1960-2018 Data on Plastics in Municipal Solid Waste by Weight
in Thousands of United States Tons
Combustion with Energy Recovery
Sources: Plastics information is from the American Chemistry Council and the National Association for PET Container Resources. A dash indicates data which is not available.
Of the 35,680,000 tons of plastic which was generated in the United States alone, greater than 75 percent — or 26,970,000 tons — was buried in landfills. Only 3,090,000 tons of plastic — which seems like a lot but is actually only slightly greater than 8.66 percent — was actually recycled; and those percentages remained fairly constant since 2015.
Sorry, but there’s so much misinformation in this post. First off, there are no “garbage patches” in the oceans. I assume you are referring to the “garbage island” meme, which is a complete lie. If you go there you will see nothing. There is an increase in the ppm in that area of the ocean, but most of the particles are tiny.
Second, relying on one “study” is dubious at best, so I would bet my life that the real number of amount of plastic ingested is much lower. However, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s pretty much harmless. It passes right through your system. It is a non-problem. That should be obvious given how much plastic we supposedly consume and yet we are doing just fine thank you.
Finally, the majority of plastic entering the oceans comes from Asia. Specifically, China, Thailand and Vietnam. If you go to Thailand you will see this firsthand. We are not the problem. We don’t dump our garbage into the ocean. So what we do here makes zero difference.
To support that argument, WR2 cited this article by Alex Berezow of the American Council on Science and Health, which claims that eight rivers in Asia and two rivers in Africa cause approximately 90 percent of pollution in the oceans of the world which are caused by plastic. Assuming that that statistic is true, that means that the aforementioned numbers of the generation of plastic in the United States — as well as the remainder of North America, Europe, and Australia inclusive — is fewer than ten percent.
Furthermore, John Stossel — who has been an investigative reporter for decades — called out on the “tyranny” and “stupidity” of recycling with the following two videos:
Yes, Hope Does Exist For Recycling Plastic
Although recycling plastic does seem to help — even if at only slightly greater than 8.66 percent — some innovative thinking has led to one promising effort: paving roads and highways with plastic.
“A road running through Accra, Ghana’s capital, looks like any other blacktop. Yet what most drivers don’t realize is that the asphalt under them contains a slurry of used plastics — shredded and melted bags, bottles, and snack wraps — that otherwise were destined for a landfill”, according to this article written by Ann Parson of Yale School for the environment. “The impetus for many similar road projects underway in Ghana was an ambitious plan announced by President Akufo-Addo in 2018. It calls for Ghanaians to strive for a circular model, to recycle and reuse as much plastic waste as they produce each year — roughly 1.1 million tons — by 2030.”
At only approximately five percent of plastics which are recycled, Ghana — which is one of the 54 countries which comprise the continent of Africa — apparently has a worse percentage than the United States; and because only 23 percent of the entire road network in Ghana was paved as of January of 2019, paving roads with plastic that would otherwise find its way into a landfill or burnt would actually help towards solving two problems simultaneously.
I have driven on many unpaved roads in several countries in Africa. I intend to document my experience in Lesotho as an example in a future article. Having paved roads would obviously have been easier on which to drive.
Only approximately nine percent of the 350 million tons of plastic which humans produce each year is recycled — and the problem is that no tangible value can be realized by the average everyday man, woman, or child…
…but once a value is placed on used plastic or some other material which would otherwise be considered worthless, more people will be incentivized to repurpose it. One example is used cooking oil which was disposed by restaurants — until vehicles were manufactured which could use it as fuel; and diesel engines can supposedly operate on used vegetable oil — but operating motor vehicles with used vegetable oil may not be legal, according to this article from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States:
Raw vegetable oil or recycled greases (also called waste cooking oil) that have not been processed into esters are not biodiesel, and are not registered by EPA for legal use in motor vehicles. Because of the potential for increased emissions from a vehicle, it is considered unlawful tampering to convert a vehicle designed for diesel fuel to operate on waste cooking oil without EPA certification. To date, EPA has not certified any such conversions. These conversions may also violate the terms of the vehicle warranty.
Likewise, guests at hotel and resort properties who prefer using single use bottles of toiletries, straws, and other items manufactured out of plastic which are intended to be used only once or a few times may not see the value proposition of using bulk dispensers of products instead in order to reduce the footprint of pollution which is caused by plastic.