A Greenpeace USA review of America’s domestic recycling system suggests “much plastic packaging is not recyclable”, the organisation says.
Greenpeace USA has released the results of a survey of the USA’s 367 material recovery facilities (MRFs) suggesting that only PET #1 and HDPE #2 plastic bottles and jugs may “legitimately” be labelled as recyclable by consumer goods companies and retailers.
The survey suggests that common plastic pollution items, including plastic tubs, cups, lids, plates, and trays, may not be labelled as recyclable, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requirements for products and labelling.
This survey confirms what many news reports have indicated since China restricted plastic waste imports two years ago — that recycling facilities across the country [USA] are not able to sort, sell, and reprocess much of the plastic that companies produce
Additionally, many full-body shrink sleeves that are added to PET #1 and HDPE #2 bottles and jugs make those products non-recyclable as well, Greenpeace USA says.
Jan Dell, engineer and founder of The Last Beach Cleanup, who led the survey of plastics acceptance policies at the 367 MRFs, said: “This survey confirms what many news reports have indicated since China restricted plastic waste imports two years ago — that recycling facilities across the country [USA] are not able to sort, sell, and reprocess much of the plastic that companies produce.”
Greenpeace says it has identified “numerous examples” of US companies using misleading labels.
Target, Nestlé, Danone, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Aldi, SC Johnson, and Unilever were among the companies that Greenpeace has asked to “correct” their labels. Greenpeace says that some changes are underway.
The organisation plans to file formal FTC complaints, if companies show no willingness to “end this deception”.
The survey suggests that many MRFs only accept two types of post-consumer plastic items — PET #1 and HDPE #2 bottles and jugs — because the items have sufficient market demand and domestic processing capacity.
Greenpeace says it found that plastics #3-7 cannot be labelled as recyclable because they have low acceptance by MRFs, minimal to negative material value, and negligible processing capacity in the US.
Consumers cannot “check locally” on recyclability for #3-7 plastics, as many labels instruct, because those plastics are being sent to landfill or incinerator.
The “jig is up”
“Retailers and consumer goods companies across the country are frequently putting labels on their products that mislead the public and harm America’s recycling systems,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar.
“Instead of getting serious about moving away from single-use plastic, corporations are hiding behind the pretence that their throwaway packaging is recyclable. We know now that this is untrue. The jig is up.”
The report states that most types of plastic packaging are economically impractical to recycle and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Greenpeace is urging US retailers and consumer goods companies to eliminate single-use consumer plastic, and to invest in reusable, refillable, and package-free approaches.
The full report can be found here.