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Critics expose plastics industry for deceptive recycling practices.

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The truth about plastic recycling is not as straightforward as many believe. Jan Dell, a former chemical engineer, has revealed that only 5 to 6 percent of the 48 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. each year is actually recycled. Dell founded The Last Beach Cleanup to combat plastic pollution, exposing the lie that all plastics labeled as recyclable can actually be recycled. The plastics industry has long perpetuated the myth of plastic recycling, despite knowing the technical and economic limitations that make true recycling at scale unfeasible.

The industry’s push for recycling is not driven by a commitment to sustainability, but rather by a desire to sell more plastic. Plastic is made from oil and gas and comes in thousands of varieties, making comprehensive recycling a challenge. By promoting recycling as a solution in the 1980s, the industry successfully diverted attention from the real issue of plastic waste. Recent efforts by the industry to invest in advanced recycling technology and launch new ad campaigns may be a continuation of the misleading narrative aimed at boosting plastic sales, rather than genuinely addressing the plastic waste crisis.

As plastic production is projected to triple by 2050, the plastic industry’s focus on promoting recycling over reducing production may exacerbate the environmental impact of plastic waste. With over 170 countries working on a United Nations treaty to end plastic pollution, the plastics industry’s insistence on prioritizing recycling over confronting the limitations of plastic recycling technology may hinder global efforts to effectively tackle the plastic waste crisis. Jan Dell’s assertion that the plastics industry has recycled nothing but their lies underscores the need for a more transparent and sustainable approach to plastic waste management going forward.

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