GreenThinker DC’s mission is to de-normalize the overuse of plastic. When I tell people that I am starting an organization that will help fight plastic pollution, about 90% think I give talks on how to recycle. We at GreenThinker DC think plastic recycling is a failure. If it was a good idea every city, town, and municipality would be doing it. As of right now only mid-size and big cities that can take on the loss of recycling can afford to have recycling centers. That’s right – recycling operates on a loss.
There are many reasons why they struggle to sell back their raw materials. One major issue is that plastic is a junky material in the first place, so it losses is quality easily as you melt it and try to reconstruct it. Plastic can only be downcycled. That means when you put a plastic water bottle in the recycling, it will never be a plastic water bottle again. It can be downgraded to something like a reusable grocery bag. You may think that is great, we made a reusable grocery bag, but we sell a trillion plastic water bottles a year. Is there a need for a trillion reusable grocery bags? Technically you can recycle plastic water bottles to be a plastic water bottle again, but only if you were to put a lot of money into it. No one has that kind of money, so it never happens. So what happens is down-cycling instead.
So where did the idea of recycling come from anyway? None other then the plastic industry themselves. They use a powerful lobbying groups like American Chemistry Council (ACC) who lobby on behalf of the makers of plastic. The ACC helped create recycling by advocating for the government to create programs for it in the mid to late 80’s. If recycling was such a profitable idea, why lobby for government to do it? Wouldn’t the plastic industry itself want to be in on the recycling industry? Why use only produce virgin plastic, and not recycled plastic, if it’s such a great money maker? Why is the public using tax dollars on this? Shouldn’t the plastic industry do this themselves? So many questions, yet one answer is clear – recycling is a bad idea for everyone but the plastic industry. Since recycling was added to our curbside pickup around the mid-1980s the use of plastic has increased three-fold. The plastic industry hopes that if you believe in recycling, then you will make no effort to reduce buying, using or selling its products.
It’s a plan that has worked. Good people I know will carry their recyclables around with them, until they see a blue bin. I really commend these people for caring. Still, the message of reducing seems to be lost in all this fake recycling. Carrying your own reusable water bottle is 80 times more effective then any amount of recycling that you do. I really do not go out of my way to recycle, but I do go out of my way to avoid plastic. For instance, I forget my reusable grocery bags all the time. I just take all of my grocery items loosely. Then put in in my car loosely and when I get home, I get my reusable grocery bags I forgot and then pack them up and bring them to my house.
There is hope for the future, and that hope is spelled L-O-O-P. Loop is a company partnering with brand names to have refills of their products picked up and delivered to your home, such as Shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Similar programs have failed in the USA due cost. I can’t convince you to spend a slight increase on Loop packaging, but mind you that by 2050, scientists say that their will be more plastic than fish in the sea. This is our nightmare at GreenThinker DC, and it will be your nightmare also, if we don’t quickly support programs that work in fighting plastic pollution.
Please join us Thursday June 13th at Teasim at 6:30 pm for a Zero Waste Support Group Meet-up. RSVP is appreciated but not required. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/zero-waste-support-group-tickets-62511210714
I will teach a free class on Recycling, Landfill and Incinerators on June 27th at 6:30 pm in Dupont. You can register starting June 19th. http://knowledgecommonsdc.org/classes/deprogramming-rethinking-plastic/