‘Plastic recycling is a dead-end street’, claims Greenpeace USA

Much of the packaging sustainability focus in the beverage industry to date has been on recycling and using recycled content. But Greenpeace says the strategy fails at the first hurdle in that, in fact, ‘no type of plastic in the packaging in the US meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy’.

And it says recycling of plastic waste fails because it is ‘difficult to collect, virtually impossible to sort for recycling, environmentally harmful to reprocess, often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and not economical to recycle.’

Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace USA Senior Plastics Campaigner, said: “Corporations have worked with industry front groups to promote plastic recycling as the solution to plastic waste for decades. But the data is clear: practically speaking, most plastic is just not recyclable. The real solution is to switch to systems of reuse and refill.”​ 

Is recyclable plastic actually recycled? (not really)

The report, ‘Circular Claims Fall Flat Again’ (2022 edition) covers all plastics used in F&B and other common household items, although the environmental advocate has consistently targeted plastic bottles (with high-profile campaigns against Coca-Cola​ in particular due to its size) and continues to do so in this latest edition. 

The report notes overall plastic recycling was estimated to have declined to about 5–6% in 2021, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018.

Companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have committed to ensuring all of their packaging will become 100% recyclable in the near future. 

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