With Only 9% of All Plastic Recycled, Break Free From Plastic Calls Out Hypocrisy of “America Recycles Day”
November 14, 2019
Berkeley, CA — Tomorrow, on the industry-backed, “America Recycles Day,” people across the country will be participating in clean-up activities, and pledging to recycle more. At the same time, Break Free From Plastic leaders will be getting arrested on Fire Drill Friday to call attention to environmental injustice, climate change, failing recycling systems, and waste dumping scandals, while demanding that corporations reduce the production of plastics, instead of focusing on cleaning it up after the fact.
Keep America Beautiful, the non-profit organization behind America Recycles Day, is funded by some of the biggest corporate polluters (Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pepsi) according to the recent global brand audit report, and has a history of sabotaging plastic reduction legislation while blaming consumers for the plastic pollution crisis– taking the heat off the corporations who are creating it in the first place.
Instead of taking meaningful steps to phase out single-use plastic from their business models, corporate polluters uplift recycling as the primary solution to plastic waste. But while Americans are diligently recycling and attending clean-ups, the plastic industry is planning to quadruple plastic production by 2050. Meanwhile, only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled.
Corporations’ over-reliance on recycling is actually undermining it. According to a group of mission-based recyclers including Ecology Center, Eco-cycle, Eureka Recycling, and Recycle Ann Arbor, “Our jobs are becoming harder and harder as major consumer brands flood the market with more and different types of single-use plastics and other disposable packaging, insisting that these items should be included in our recycling programs while doing little to nothing to actually make their products recyclable and recycled.” Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle only use 9%, 3%, and 2% recycled content in their products, respectively.
“Just like the fossil fuel industry, corporate polluters have been using recycling to justify ever-increasing production of single-use packaging, while taxpayers and cities are left to foot the bill. Lower income communities and communities of color, who are the hardest hit and the least responsible, bear the brunt of a model that has brought us to the brink of the waste and climate crisis,” said Denise Patel, US & Canada Program Director of GAIA.
Meanwhile, China’s effective ban on foreign post-consumer recycling imports has exposed the major flaws in our global recycling system, which has been shown to pollute communities in other parts of the world, particularly Asia.
“Plastic waste shipments supposedly for recycling are trashing poor villages and communities wherever they end up. Companies need to come clean on this one — they cannot continue to fool the public that has become acutely aware that the solution to the crisis lies in producing and using less plastic to begin with,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic.
Fortunately, communities and businesses across the world are working with local governments towards zero waste, including alternative delivery systems like refill and reuse, organizing for improved product redesign and implementing bans on a wide range of single-use disposables.
According to Patel, “We must think beyond recycling. A Green New Deal for Zero Waste will create millions of jobs that focus on reduction and reuse before recycling, bring innovative design and delivery systems for products built with cities, businesses, and communities coming together, and promote health and well-being instead of waste and injustice.”