Energy & Environment

Greenpeace says many plastics are not actually recyclable

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A new report from Greenpeace has found that many plastic products are not actually recyclable because few, if any, U.S. facilities can process them. 

The report, published Tuesday, was based on a survey of all 367 operating material recovery facilities in the U.S. It found that only some types of plastic bottles and jugs “can be legitimately labeled as recyclable in the U.S. today.”

The organization found that only 14 percent of the facilities accept plastic clamshells, 11 percent accept plastic cups, 4 percent accept plastic bags and 1 percent accept plastic cutlery, straws and stirrers. 

Specifically, the report said that that PET #1 and HDPE #2 bottles and jugs are typically accepted while plastics #3 through #7 are less commonly accepted.

The report further stated that plastic #3 through #7 waste across the country “is being sent to landfills or incinerated.”

It also said that “incorrect recyclable labels” makes it harder for the facilities to “cost-effectively collect and sort other materials … that are easily ruined by contact with food-soiled packaging,” wasting energy, causing carbon emissions and raising labor costs.  

Greenpeace, in the statement on the report, also threatened to file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against several companies that it accused of using “misleading labels” if the companies do not change the labels on their plastics. 

“Retailers and consumer goods companies across the country are frequently putting labels on their products that mislead the public and harm America’s recycling systems,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar in the statement. 

“Instead of getting serious about moving away from single-use plastic, corporations are hiding behind the pretense that their throwaway packaging is recyclable. We know now that this is untrue. The jig is up,” Hocevar added. 

The report comes amid a congressional effort to fight plastic pollution. Legislation rolled out this month by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal aims to ban certain types of single-use containers and require manufacturers to use more recycled content in their packaging. 

Tags Alan Lowenthal Greenpeace Recycling Tom Udall
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