Plastics Industry Spent Millions Selling the Public on Recycling – in an Effort to Sell More Plastic


Mcore3water row In: Plastics Industry Spent Millions Selling the Public on Recycling - in an Effort to Sell More Plastic | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Single use plastic bottles provided by the Florida Department of Transportation at an M-CORES meeting.  There are 22 plastic water bottles in this picture. -Photo by Jim Tatum.

This description of the downside of plastics does not even mention the worst one — the risk to human health.  Just one more way we allow global corporations to kill our Earth as we sit on the sidelines, happily buying cheaper products we don’t need.

Counter to the facts given below in this article, corporations such as Nestle Waters continue to feed the public false information about recycling their garbage.

See the complete article at this in link to

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Plastics Industry Spent Millions Selling the Public on Recycling – in an Effort to Sell More Plastic

By Laura Sullivan, NPR

01 April 20


rsn F In: Plastics Industry Spent Millions Selling the Public on Recycling - in an Effort to Sell More Plastic | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe Riveror decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can’t be or won’t be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.

In a joint investigation, NPR and the PBS series Frontline found that oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.

Here are our key takeaways from our investigation:

Plastics industry had “serious doubt” recycling would ever be viable 

Starting in the late 1980s, the plastics industry spent tens of millions of dollars promoting recycling through ads, recycling projects and public relations, telling people plastic could be and should be recycled.

But their own internal records dating back to the 1970s show that industry officials long knew that recycling plastic on a large scale was unlikely to ever be economically viable.

A report sent to top industry executives in April 1973 called recycling plastic “costly” and “difficult.” It called sorting it “infeasible,” saying “there is no recovery from obsolete products.” Another document a year later was candid: There is “serious doubt” widespread plastic recycling “can ever be made viable on an economic basis.”

The industry promoted recycling to keep plastic bans at bay

Despite this, three former top officials, who have never spoken publicly before, said the industry promoted recycling as a way to beat back a growing tide of antipathy toward plastic in the 1980s and ’90s. The industry was facing initiatives to ban or curb the use of plastic. Recycling, the former officials told NPR and Frontline, became a way to preempt the bans and sell more plastic.

“There was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in a significant way,” says Lew Freeman, former vice president of government affairs for the industry’s lobbying group, then called the Society of the Plastics Industry, or SPI.

Another top official, Larry Thomas, who led SPI for more than a decade until 2000, says the strategy to push recycling was simple:

The feeling was the plastics industry was under fire, we got to do what it takes to take the heat off, because we want to continue to make plastic products,” Thomas says. “If the public thinks the recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment.”

More recycling means fewer profits for oil and gas companies

In interviews, current plastics industry officials acknowledged that recycling the vast majority of plastic hasn’t worked in the past. But they said the industry is funding new technology that they believe will get recycling plastic up to scale. The goal, they say, is to recycle 100% of the plastic they make.

“Recycling has to get more efficient, more economic. We’ve got to do a better job collecting the waste, sorting it,” says Jim Becker, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.’s vice president of sustainability. “Five, 10 years ago, the industry response was a little more combative. Today, it truly is not just PR. We don’t like to see [waste in the environment] either. We really don’t. We want to solve this.”

But the more plastic is recycled, the less money the industry will make selling new plastic. And those profits have become increasingly important. Companies have told shareholders that profits from using oil and gas for transport are expected to decline in coming years with better fuel efficiency and the increasing use of electric cars….

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  1. Paper products are universally recyclable, and woodlands are renewable with sensible
    management, unlike what is currently practiced. Beginning in the “hippy” 1960s among
    the emerging environmental “hands off–let nature take its course” academics, the idea was to abandon access roads for wildfire suppression. Likewise harmful to the western
    forests was the abandonment of simple practices like placing rock weirs in stream beds
    to retain small pools of water which were crucial in drought years and, incidentally, also
    benefited and conserved the fish and wildlife populations via habitat enhancement. It is
    a fact that plastics are here to stay, but sometimes the “old” way of doing things happen to be the best way! We need to take a look at where we’re at to see where we’re going!

  2. I watched this documentary on PBS a few nights ago. The plastics industry “spending millions” in the recycling scam is a small investment to allow them to make billion$. This is just one example of corporations duping us into cleaning up their environmental messes.

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