Hardly any plastic can really be recycled and manufacturers have

Hardly any plastic can really be recycled, and manufacturers have known this for decades: report

Plastics manufacturers have been promoting recycling of their products as an environmentally friendly solution for decades, despite knowing firsthand that it is not feasible, according to a report released Thursday.

According to the Center for Climate Integrity report, more than 99 percent of plastics are made using fossil fuels, and the vast majority of them cannot be “recycled,” meaning they cannot be processed and turned into entirely new products. According to the report, only polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene plastic containers have viable end markets or companies that purchase recyclables to make new products. Environmental Protection Agency materials have documented this for at least 30 years.

Additionally, some local and city recycling programs collect other categories of plastics but do not fully recycle them. These other plastics are instead burned or sent to landfills. In many cases, chemical additives or dyes make it impossible to recycle the same types of plastic together, while even plastic products that can legitimately be reused degrade over time and the cost of the process is higher than that of producing entirely new plastic.

The center blames the petrochemical industry for the perception that plastics are widely recycled, noting that the industry promoted single-use plastics in the 1950s and 1960s and has since promoted the idea of ​​recycling in response to widespread opposition to single-use plastics has. The industry began promoting mass landfilling in the 1970s and then pivoted to promoting recycling in the 1980s.

“Petrochemical companies and the plastics industry have been aware for decades of the technical and economic limitations that make plastics unrecyclable and have failed to overcome them,” the report said. “Despite this knowledge, the plastics industry has continued to increase plastic production while conducting a well-coordinated campaign to deceive consumers, policymakers and regulators about plastic recycling.”

The Hill has reached out to the trade group Plastics Industry Association for comment.

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