According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. And because of complexities in the recycling process, huge amounts of single-use plastic (as well as glass and cardboard) that consumers try to recycle ultimately end up getting burned or tossed into landfills anyway. A 2017 study in Science Advances estimated that, of all the plastic waste generated globally up to 2015, just 9% had been recycled, while 12% was incinerated and the rest ended up in landfills or scattered around the natural environment. Some plastic waste is burned to create fuel or energy, but this process is itself energy-intensive and emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Given that broken system, it’s clear that “recycling our way out of [the climate crisis] will not work,” says Sander Defruyt, who runs plastic innovation initiatives at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), a sustainability-focused nonprofit. “Reuse, as well as plain elimination of a lot of packaging we don’t need, will also have to be a crucial part of the solution.”
By Jamie Ducharme. Time. September 28, 2021.