On October 24, 2022, NPR released the article “Recycling Plastic Is Practically Impossible–And The Problem Is Getting Worse.” Based on a recent Greenpeace report, it paints a dire picture of the plastics recycling industry and recycling statistics.

Indeed, the plastics industry is increasing production of an ever wider array of plastics, most of which is not intended to be recycled and which muddles the efforts of municipalities to recycle those plastics that can be recycled.

According to the Beyond Plastics report The New Coal, Plastics and Climate Change, “The U.S. plastics industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to exceed that of coal-fired power in this country by 2030.” Here are actions you can take to help reduce the demand for plastic and plastic pollution:

  1. Reduce plastic items in your life, in particular avoid single-use plastics. Carry a reusable water bottle. Buy products packaged without plastic, such as shampoo bars or bamboo toothbrushes. Support restaurants that use PFAS-free compostable or reusable take out containers. Judith’s Kitchen in West Newton and Red Lentil in Watertown are using reusable takeout containers that you return, and the list is growing. Here are more ideas.
  2. Speak up. Tell businesses that you want them to eliminate single use plastic. Businesses are sensitive to customer feedback and they will listen. Here are examples of how restaurants and dry cleaners could move away from plastic.
  3. Tell your city councilors and the mayor that you support ordinances that reduce single use plastics. Newton has banned single use plastic bags and foam polystyrene, but there are still many plastic single use items that are going into the waste stream. We also need a widely available and equally accessible city composting program.
  4. Tell your state legislators that you support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation. It would hold producers responsible for the cost of disposing of their products and therefore incentivize them to redesign their products to be recyclable. The Massachusetts legislature has not supported of the recent efforts at making manufacturers share financially in the recycling of paint, mattresses, and packaging. Maine, California, Colorado, and Oregon have passed very strong ones.
  5. Continue to place only RECYCLABLE plastics into the recycling bin. Follow the City’s guideline on what’s acceptable and avoid “wishcycling”, a practice of placing non-recyclable items in the recycling bin in the hope they will be recycled. Wishcycling leads to contamination of the recyclable materials. Recyclable plastic should not be placed in the trash.