Beyond Plastic

New report finds plastic recycling continues to fall

Recycling rate for all plastics except some of #1 and #2 are less than 5%.

Pam Walker via Shutterstock; Pxhere; Daizuoxin via Shutterstock | Used by permission

The plastic industry has tried to convince us that recycling plastic is the solution to the waste problem. But a new report adds to the growing evidence that this is not possible. Greenpeace released an update on their Circular Claims Fall Flat Again report that says that the recycling rates for all plastics except some of #1 and #2 are less than 5% . For #1 and #2 plastics the rates are 20.9% and 10.3% which are lower rates then 2022. Most recycling plants in the United States done even take plastic that isn’t #1, #2, or #5. Out of the recycling centers that take the #5 plastics, most of it is thrown away when they receive it because they can not recycle it. This means that most plastics that are not bottles or cartons are not getting recycled and are contaminating the waste stream.

This report echoes a similar report Beyond Plastics published in May of this year that said the recycling rate of plastic was between 5%-6%. The EPA has not come out with an updated report on the state of recycling since 2018 when the rate of plastic recycling was 9%. The recycling rate for plastic reached its peak in 2014 at 9.5% but the plastic industry keeps presenting it as a solution. One of the other important things to note about the report is that only 60% of Americans have access to recycle these #1 and #2 plastics.

So what does this mean? We need to reduce the amount plastic we produce and use instead of trying to recycle our way out of this problem. Yes, we should increase recycling infrastructure especially for aluminum, glass, cardboard and paper, which have much higher recycling rates, but it cant be the only solution we rely on. You can start with telling Whole Foods to reduce their plastic here.

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Holly Thompson
Holly Thompson

Former Beyond Plastic, Associate, PIRG

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

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