Home Stamp collecting GUEST VIEW: Mis-labeling plastic as recyclable defeats its purpose and damages the planet

GUEST VIEW: Mis-labeling plastic as recyclable defeats its purpose and damages the planet



The following editorial appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

(TNS) A bill passed last week by the California legislature would ban manufacturers from affixing the triangular chasing arrows symbol, meaning their plastic products and packaging are recyclable, on items that are not recyclable at all . Although this first national measure has not received much outside attention, the bill deserves to be imposed nationally in order to end the widespread and destructive use of the recyclable symbol – thus than overuse of plastic in packaging.

No one can reasonably deny the ubiquity of plastics in the garbage that washed up on the country’s shores, clog waterways, kill wildlife and wreak havoc wherever the wind blows. At least paper litter biodegrades, but plastic is a pollutant forever. Waste disposal companies like Republic Services agree with California lawmakers that the problem is out of hand, particularly because manufacturers misleadingly affix the chasing arrows symbol to non-recyclable items.

The Environmental Protection Agency says these products end up being incinerated or dumped in landfills, regardless of the good intentions of consumers in the recycling bin. Some estimates indicate that only about 8.7% of plastics are actually recyclable. When manufacturers put this triangular symbol on their plastic products, they are often lying to consumers. And there is nothing accidental about this misinformation: It is part of a deliberate welfare campaign by petrochemical companies to make their destructive products appear eco-friendly so consumers think less to the damage they cause to the environment.

Republic Services has a aptly titled “Everything You Think You Know About Recycling Is Wrong and Here’s How To Fix It” website which is well worth a visit.

The misleading placement of the triangular symbol on non-recyclable items significantly increases municipal waste treatment costs. Taxpayers must cover the costs of collecting and transporting plastics as well as legitimate recyclables to a recycling center, where fake items must be separated and then transported to the traditional landfills where they belonged in the first place.

The misplaced chasing arrow symbols also create a false sense among consumers that they are doing the right thing by dumping waste in their blue bins. People feel good about being in charge when in fact they are making a big problem worse. They should complain to product manufacturers about labeling errors and putting too much unnecessary plastic into their packaging. They should demand that their own state legislatures follow California’s lead and consider imposing surcharges when packaging contains too much plastic.

For example, consider a small camping knife or multitool that Amazon ships in a box padded with non-recyclable plastic bubble wrap. The product itself only requires about 6 square inches of packaging, but the manufacturer often insists on wrapping it in 10 or 12 square inches of heavy, hard-to-open plastic to cover its large marketing label. Is all this plastic waste really necessary?

The short answer is no. And before throwing it in the blue bin, consumers owe it to their planet to ensure that it is truly recyclable.