From the archives: A recent PBS FRONTLINE program produced in collaboration with NPR and IRW examined the ballooning plastic waste worldwide and what industry experts knew from the outset what was and wasn’t possible to recycle.
“Plastic Wars” looks at how the plastics industry has used recycling to help sell more plastic — and why the plastic waste problem has only grown.
A review of corporate commitments by FRONTLINE has found that three major brand companies and an association of plastic bag makers — all of which have recently pledged to increase the recycled content of their plastic packaging and bags — have fallen short of ambitious recycling-related goals in the past.
Some materials are recycled at relatively high levels, but for plastic the rate is just eight percent. Another 16 percent is incinerated, and the remaining 76 percent ends up in landfills.
Despite efforts to reduce the use of plastic, the industry is scaling up new production and promoting a familiar solution: recycling. But it’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever been recycled.