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)

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