A mixed bag (plastic) – POLITICO
The pandemic may have been good at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it was not good for recycling plastics.
A new report shows that overall plastics recycling fell 5.7% in 2020 compared to 2019. That’s a drop of 290 million pounds.
The steepest decline occurred in the recycling of food and other “rigid non-bottle” containers, which fell 16.3%. Bottles and other plastics also fell. Film collection recycling, on the other hand, was the sector with the greatest increase compared to 2019, with an increase of less than 1%.
The Association of Plastic Recyclers, which published the report, has ideas for reversing the trend. The group said the recycling industry needed more supply, less confusion with labeling and better designed products to reduce contamination. APR is a group of manufacturers and users of plastics and packaging, including companies such as 3M Co., Costco Wholesale Corp., DuPont de Nemours Inc. and Coca Cola Co.
The Recycling Partnership, which includes major companies such as Target Corp., PepsiCo. and General Mills Inc., estimates that 40 million American households do not have “equitable access to recycling”.
The report also highlighted a trend towards recovery of US-origin plastics in North America. In 2020, 92% of post-consumer plastic from the United States, including more than 95% of all bottles, was collected in North America for recycling. A decade earlier, about 6 in 10 plastics from the United States were recycled here, with 39% exported overseas.
Recovering plastic is important because the material is difficult to break down and can cause damage when it enters waterways and accumulates in animals and plants that we then consume. Less than 10 percent of plastic is recycled globally, according to the United Nations, and the The EPA found that recycling plastics in the United States the numbers are no better.
The new look at falling U.S. recycling rates comes as top California law enforcement officials seek to point fingers at who may be responsible for the pollution. Attorney General Rob Bonta said last week he was investigating fossil fuel and petrochemical companies “for their role in causing and worsening the global plastic pollution crisis“, citing “efforts historical and ongoing to deceive the public”. He said he was trying to determine if any of those alleged actions violated state law.
Bonta issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil Corp. as part of the investigation.
Meanwhile, more plastic could arrive. The American Chemistry Council said last year that companies planned to invest a total of $208 billion in 351 chemical projects.
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