In March 2021, civil society organization Greenpeace Switzerland published a position statement in which it criticizes plastic recycling and collection initiatives of big companies and retailers as misleading consumers and hindering the implementation of impactful changes such as reuse schemes and extended producer responsibility (EPR).
The organization argues that separate plastic collection and recycling have ecological benefits, but that they are relatively small, and most collected plastic is unrecyclable. About 90 % of all collected plastics in Switzerland are currently incinerated, contributing to increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Even if recycled, the organization explains that most processes often lead merely to downcycling of materials.
Greenpeace describes that advertising the recyclability of single-use plastic packaging, therefore, evokes a false sense of security to consumers who believe buying such products will have less negative environmental impacts. According to the article, this will lead to increased use and consumption of single-use packaging, generating more waste and aggravating associated problems in the coming years.
Instead of increasing collection efforts for plastic and recycling, Greenpeace suggests supporting the set-up of reuse and return systems by (1) providing necessary infrastructure and cross-sector standardization, (2) developing standardized, long-life reuse containers, the adaptation of logistics, including transport by producers, and (3) implementing reuse and return models, such as refill at home, refill on the go, return from home, and return on the go.
The statement recommends such systems be implemented collaboratively by producers, retailers, and legislators. This will, among others, require more regional supply, smaller product lines, as well as the abolishment of packaging-intensive products. The organization concludes that the ecological potential of innovative reuse solutions is higher than the ecological potential of recycling systems.
Greenpeace Schweiz (March 31, 2021). “Sackgasse plastik-recycling.” (in German)