In an article published on September 20, 2020, news provider EcoWatch reviews the history of plastic recycling and presents evidence that it was never intended to work. The article writes that released “internal documents from the 1970s and former executives confirmed that the industry knew all along that recycling at a large scale would never be economically viable because the process costs more than making new plastic.” It argues that recycling was all along intended to be a smokescreen to distract the public from wanting to counteract plastic pollution by other means. Millions of dollars were spent every year on advertisements for recycling and lobbying to place recycling codes on many non-recyclable plastic types and build material collection facilities. Until recently in the US, the majority of collected plastics were shipped to China, where recycling was carried out in an often rudimentary fashion with questionable effectiveness (FPF reported). “Selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true,” the article quotes a former plastics executive telling the US National Public Radio (NPR). In line with these claims, a recent survey of 89 best-selling packaged foods in the UK found that only one-third of them had packaging that was locally recyclable.

Another recent article published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) argues that it is the recyclability of plastic packaging made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that will indeed drive growth in the packaging sector and lead towards a circular economy. Given its more optimal properties for recycling and that it is already the most widely collected type of plastic, Indorama Ventures argues that PET is the right way forward for plastic packaging. However, with many stakeholders taking part in the plastics debate and policy makers increasing discussions about new regulations on single-use packaging and producer responsibility, the real way forward has yet to be agreed on.

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Tiffany Duong (September 20, 2020). “The Myth About Recycling Plastic? It Works.” EcoWatch

BBC (September 24, 2020). “Pringles and Cadbury ‘failing on recycled packaging’.”

Yashovardhan Lohia (September 20, 2020). “How sustainability will drive growth in the packaging industry.” World Economic Forum