Fake Plastic Earth: 7 Reasons Why the Recycling Industry Is Absolute Garbage According to John Oliver (Happy Earth Day!)
Today, in honor of Earth Day, let’s take a second to talk about the malignant tumor that is the recycling industry. OK, that’s a bit of a harsh opener – how about we start with an apology? For all of you dedicated recycling warriors out there, we sincerely beg pardon. It turns out our noble passion for washing and pre-sorting plastic containers to do our part for a cleaner environment is a total waste of time.
According to John Oliver in his recent expose on Last Week Tonight, the entire recycling industry is a sham predicated on a decades-old fib to keep oil companies flush. In other words, we’ve all been duped for the sake of profits. (Why does that not sound at all surprising?)
It all started in the late 1980s when Congress was preparing to place a major ban on plastics after the material quickly became the worst polluter in human history. Facing certain death, the plastics industry (a subsidiary of oil companies) needed a way to save itself. The bigwigs called a meeting and came up with a plan: They would advertise their way out of trouble by selling America on the idea of recycling.
They came up with a slogan, a promotional campaign, and convinced Congress to provide blue bins for everyone in the country. But while they sold Americans on the heroics of recycling, the truth was far from noble. In fact, it’s one of the biggest scandals in American history (of which we have lots).
While the whole story is a tangled web deserving of its own Netflix miniseries, here are seven quick reasons why the recycling industry is total garbage that will bring you up to speed. Just be warned, you will never look at your blue bin the same way again.
Cover Photo: Monty Rakusen (Getty Images)
Built On A Lie
Nazi propaganda guru Joseph Goebbels once said if you're going to tell a lie, make it a big one. Oil companies did just that with their advertising campaign for recycling - teaching the lie in schools, opening recycling centers around the country (most of which closed within two years), issuing special blue bins to house their mountain of lies, and slapping a fancy triangle logo on all their products - all the while knowing there was nothing real behind it.
Big Oil's Bottom Line
Over 90 percent of plastic is derived from fossil fuels. Guess who the $1.2 trillion industry benefits most? You can call Big Oil a lot of names, but "environmentalist" isn't one of them.
New Plastics Mega-Factories Are Being Constructed Right Now
We could have prevented a lot of damage had plastic production been curbed in the '80s. More than half of all plastic pollution in the world today comes from plastic manufactured after 2002. And believe it or not, one of the biggest plastic manufacturing plants in the US is under construction right now in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley." It might be made in America, but the owner is a Taiwanese corporation. 凉爽的!!!
90 Percent of Plastic Ends Up In Landfill
Almost all the plastic we put in our blue bin becomes garbage. Before coronavirus, most of America's plastic waste would be shipped to Chinese landfills or burnt (releasing toxins into our atmosphere). Now we just bury it right here in the good old U.S. of A. Why? Because recycling plastic is not economical. Big plastic manufacturers like Dow Chemical know it's cheaper to churn out fresh plastics than recycle old ones. So all this time they pretended to be recycling our blue bins just to make us feel good. Shucks, isn't that sweet?
Plastic Is Everywhere
Can anyone say "plastic wedgie?" The pollutant can now be found in every water source on Earth, from the deepest oceans to the freshest rivers and lakes. Meaning we all drink some amount of plastic every time we hydrate. Will our new plastic arteries make us live longer? Probably not.
Plastic Does Not Biodegrade
Oil-based plastics don't biodegrade very well. This "miracle" product is built to last, and last it does. Imagine if Voldemort had gotten all the Horcruxes - that's plastic in a nutshell.
Unfortunately, the public at large has about as much lobbying power as a dog on a pogo stick wearing sunglasses. Lobbyists for plastic and oil companies have been skillfully operating for decades and are supremely entrenched. While it's important to organize and pass legislation to change the landscape of plastics manufacturing, it will no doubt be an uphill battle until the very end. And by then, we may just be living on a fake plastic Earth.
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