How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

TL;DR everything has a recycling triangle on it to make consumers feel better about buying plastics despite the fact that nobody has found a way to actually recycle the huge amount of plastic being disposed of through recycling bins and there was never any intent by Big Oil to actually invest in what would be their direct competition (recycled plastic rather than new plastic from petroleum products).

@thufie A reminder that in almost all locations PLA "compostable plastic" (often labeled number 7 or 0 for marketing) is not only not recyclable but actively contaminates compost and recycling plants. Number 6 polystyrene is also trash almost everywhere.

I see all these places using "compostable plastic" because it's more environmentally friendly. They ruin the compost if they're composted, they ruin the recycling if they are recycled, and it pisses me off that people use them.


The thing about recycling is that we have it totally wrong. The object of recycling is to reduce the amount of resources and item requires over its lifetime.

Recycling is reusing shopping bags and coat hangers and stuff AS IS. Recycling that involves changing an objects form is orders of magnitude less effective because it requires further resources to change its form, transport it, etc.

Recycling items in their current form is the gold standard. Anything else is basically marketing/political stuff.

@jonw that's just reusing but I totally agree with you. We need to really not have to deal with this shit that is made to be thrown away to begin with though


OK, reuse=as-is. Makes sense.

I've always viewed recycling as the step after reuse. Reuse is ideal, failing to reuse leads to recycling.

If that makes sense.

Then, once you've fallen into recycling, that is also divided into bad, better, best.

The Best recycling, although already worse than reuse, uses the item nearly as-is and only wastes or spends energy on a small part of it.

The Bad recycling is the crap that is happening today where we separate stuff into bins thinking that's the end game. But it takes similar energy for the recycling truck to come to my house, take it wherever it goes, the building operation and staff that are using resources to sort it, and gets sent to the place that will turn it into whatever it will be this time around. Then it has to be delivered to the marketplace as a new product which takes even more resources.

My decidedly uneducated opinion is that we likely spend more energy recycling some items than it takes to make them new. But sometimes we need to do it anyhow.

So, to;dr - reuse is the goal.

And yes, I guess if you take it even one step farther, the whole point is to not make stuff that needs to be reused or recycled in the first place.

@thufie last year, i think it was around this time, the Philippines sent a huge load of plastic recycling back to canada because it was contaminated. i know what they mean, cause i've worked in a recycling plant. there is all sorts of disgusting and toxic crap received by them, including jerry cans with plenty of fuel still in them, and rats live in the pile of unsorted recycle bin contents because virtually no one washes food containers, so there's rat shit everywhere too.

@thufie this is not an accident, of course.

we were taught "reduce, reuse, recycle", but that seems to have understood by industry and municipalities as "increase, discard, recycle", cause i don't think i ever saw things in quite so much plastic packaging before recycle bins existed.

This is a good take.
On the other side, the "recycling industry" is basically a bunch of sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors playing hot-potato with plastic garbage and every one of them promising to each other that they will get it recycled but everyone knowing that it's eventually going to end up in the hands of the lowest bidder with the lowest morals, who is going to burn it in an open pit in China or Malasia.

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