The Great Recycling Con

The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products.

Comments: 283

  1. It's time to insist that all packaging be biodegradable, no exceptions. We have the technology to do this; it pays for itself and improves our standard of living in the long run.

  2. There is no reason to apply this to aluminum cans. They are 100 percent recyclable BACK into new aluminum cans.

  3. @PNBlanco I order porcelain doll molds which are quite fragile requiring a good amount of packing peas to cushion them. Kudos to the industries which use cornstarch packing peas which dissolve in water. I use mail order catalogs and cardboard under my mulch as a weed barrier which works phenomenally. The worms love it since it works so well as a moisture retainer. It decomposes by summers end and adds compost to the soil. The following spring I apply it again over the mulch and layer the mulch on top. No weeding necessary. We have the technology to manufacture bio-degradable "plastic" bags. Why don't we use it? Some companies have returned to glass packaging. Newman's Own used to package their spaghetti sauce in plastic. It's now in glass. We've eaten in restaurants that use pressed paper straws and waxed cardboard take out containers. All of McDonald's packaging is paper. Their napkins are recycled paper. These businesses should be congratulated for taking positive steps to lessen their environmental impact.

  4. @PNBlanco For sure. Plastic Packaging should be Home Compostable, without contributing to the micro plastic problem. or Plastic packaging materials should be standardized across the industry to a limited number of resins that are the most easily recycled. Tapes and packing sleaves also need to be biodegradable.

  5. Lulling Americans into complacency and self-justification are the twin sins of the fossil fuel industry and our capitalist-based society. Nothing, absolutely nothing, including murdering millions of sea and land mammals, can get in the way of the all-mighty dollar. The fossil fuel industry makes hundreds of millions each year just in the production of single-use plastics. The 'beverage' industry makes billions each year packaging municipal water into these plastic bottles and selling them for a profit to willing consumers. Plastic is found in the deepest regions of the oceans, including in the Marianna Trench. Microplastics are in seafood, beer, water, in almost all of our intestines and in the very air we breathe. Whales, dolphins and other sea life washing up on shores across the world are mere externalities. Meanwhile, the plastic trap continues unabated.

  6. I've never been mislead by the recycling symbol. The consumer has the ultimate responsibility.

  7. @dan How can the consumer have the ultimate responsibility? If I need a product and the product is encased in plastic, what choice do I have? It's the corporations and the politicians they control who are making the decisions about packaging. Just as they make the decisions about whether cars run on fossil fuels or water or electricity. Blame the victims, blame the little guy who doesn't funnel hundreds of thousands to your campaign. Same scam as they're running with climate change.

  8. @dan Two changes to lobby for that will help consumers make choices: 1) A universal symbol for not recyclable = TRASH. 2) Charge companies for each item with a recycling symbol stamped on it to pay for the whole (collection, transport, production of reclaimed raw material) cost of recycling. All companies should be forced to include the pollution cost in their products now, not leave the mess for my grandkids. Looking at you extraction industries.

  9. @thebigmancat You have the choice to not buy it. I'm not saying we shouldn't have laws prohibiting plastic packaging, but if no one buys stuff with it, the laws are more likely to change. There's no need to "blame" just accept that you have a responsibility. As for cars, I've had an electric car for 6 1/2 yrs (that runs on my solar panels) that was discontinued because there's not enough people buying them. We have options that could be exhausted, resulting in an increased demand for renewable packaging and energy.

  10. Has anyone else noticed the 'plasticization' of every kind of food item, including pet food? Purina chows used to come in heavy paper bags, with the kind of zip closures most farmers would recognize on feed bags for livestock. Now the bags are some form of plastic that must be cut open, which is unhandy, but worse is, what to do with the bag once it's empty? It ends up in the landfill. So do so many other food packages that used to be heavy paper or cardboard. I first noticed this switch in the early 2000s, when trying to open a Snickers bar in a fit of hunger, and finding that it was nearly impossible to do without scissors or a knife handy. I agree with PNBlanco: all packaging should be biodegradable.

  11. @Sandi I agree with you 100%. But it has been going on much longer. When I was a kid, we bought the feed for our milk cow packaged in 100 lb bags of cotton print. My mother went in the feed store with my father to pick out the pattern. She made my shirts from that. I would give anything to have one of those shirts but they were made into dishrags when no longer wearable. Now THAT is recycling The old dog food bags made of paper were useful for putting on the ground under equipment when changing oil and also insulating water pipes in the winter. Now we use plastic foam for pipe insulation that disintegrates into plastic particulates in the environment. Cotton twine around unbleached paper was used to package things. Fish was wrapped in newspaper.

  12. @Sandi I noticed that too. While kitty litter is now mostly in cardboard boxes, the food is in plastic bags that are not recycleable. Odd. My guess is that the manufacturers experienced a certain percentage of loss from water damage in transit, so switched to plastic. To which I ask- Why not waxed paper?

  13. @Sandi A minimal solution but you can use those bags as trash bags, at least. But yes, that bag and what's in it still go in the landfill.

  14. The greatest trick corporations have played is actually paying those in power to recognize them as people.

  15. @Mary Exactly correct. Meanwhile, no actual persons making decisions for the corporation ever seem to suffer any personal consequences for egregious conduct. Like PG&E, for example.

  16. @Pat - That is because under the law, the corporation itself is the "person". Corporations were granted artificial personhood over 200 years ago to lower the risks of doing business. Look up "limited corporate liability". When you sue a corporation, you sue it, not the officers of same. One can sometimes 'pierce the corporate veil", but in very limited circumstances. No one ever intended to grant these artificial entities "free speech" rights. And the dichotomy between Citizens United and limiter liability shows just how "special" those in power now view them.

  17. @Mary ...Agreed, and this is a further reason to follow - even with our understanding of recycling improved - the four R's: Reduce Re-use Recycle Don't vote Republican!

  18. It’s time to ban single use plastic, as the EU has started to do. The amount of plastic that is consumed for things like take out food is astonishing. Also, tons of plastics are disposed of in healthcare, much of it unnecessarily. Hospitals stockpile supplies which are incinerated without even being used because they have reached arbitrary expiration dates. It’s horrifying.

  19. @Eric Schneider I lived in Ireland for 9 years and now live in spain and visit Italy frequently. Hate to break the bad news, but single use plastic is on the rise here in europe. It may be nominally banned in some capacity but it’s literally almost impossible not to come home with all your food wrapped in plastic. I have been trying for years.

  20. @Eric Schneider At this time of year, although it is supposed to bring "cheer", I am saddened by the sight of copious holiday decoration on houses in the neighborhood. Many strings of gaudy polluting lights, huge inflatable plastic figures that are pierced and blow over in the wind in a few days, plastic lawn ornaments. Much will end up in the trash in a few weeks as most don't want to bother untangling, repairing and storing, and will just purchase the newest craze next year. Couldn't we just enjoy the already copious communal decorations at the stores and put up by our municipalities and places of worship? Don't get the need for all the excess and the oblivion to all the waste of energy and materials.

  21. @Eric Schneider: During a short hospitalization last year the room had a small plastic tub of supplies, e.g.: wipes and other personal care items. I never touched any of them because I didn't need them. As I was being discharged, my mother (a retired nurse) told me to take home the whole tub or whatever looked useful because it would all be thrown out after I left. Even unopened packages would not be given to another patient.

  22. Landfills are expensive. The cost of the land; taking the land out of productive agricultural uses (e. g., farming or forests or grasslands); real estate developers have a hard time selling homes and businesses near landfills; leakage from landfills tend to contaminate ground water supplies; etc. This is a hidden cost which rarely is discussed in public. One answer is to have the packaging industry develop more packaging which can be recycled. Less packaging might mean less potential non or partially recyclable materials. I've always been amazed that no engineer has developed a process to recycle-reuse plastics coded 3-6; to thoroghly clean and be able to recycle plastics 1 & 2.

  23. @Harvey Botzman There are a couple of processes to recycle/reuse any petrochemical product. One is called pyrolysis whereby the mixed plastics are heated and turned to a gas and then condensed back into oil, primarily the equivalent of diesel fuel or a syngas. The reaction requires energy to start and is then self sustaining using its own byproducts. However, the equipment is expensive and oil is currently inexpensive, making the process less cost effective. The following is a link for one of several companies that make the equipment. (I have no relationship with them. Solely using them as an example. There are others if you look them up)

  24. The conclusion the authors draw--that we as consumers need to change our buying habits--is absolutely inconsistent with their report that corporations are the problem. The consistent conclusion is that we need laws and regulations that require corporations to change how they produce products. This is true for plastics and other threats to the environment. So, if you want individuals to be responsible, they have to act politically, not economically, to vote, lobby, or participate in organizations to get government to change the rules of the game for corporations.

  25. @William If you and I stop buying/using single-use plastics, "they" will stop selling them. A focused boycott can be an effective lever for getting good legislation written and passed.

  26. @Open-minded Scientist. Exactly. No demand leads to no supply.

  27. @William Hear, hear. Moreover, corporations need to held to account for the disposal of what they produce, packaging included. I assure you if the U.S. instituted a law like Germany's wherein source corporations, not just the public and municipalities (local trash collection), bore the responsibility, and especially expense, of waste management, we'd see greater innovation and a dramatic drop in unnecessary or problematic packaging, content, etc.

  28. Doing the right thing for the planet Earth by recycling may take significant work and cost more money than sending wastes to a landfill. A majority of the public will resist doing the right thing under those circumstances. So the law needs to force them to do so. Politicians who push well-intended policies that make their constituents do more work and spend money are likely to be looking for new jobs. Depending on a majority the electorate to do the right thing, when it makes them do more work and spend money, is wishful thinking and a weakness of democracy and human nature. People need to be convinced.

  29. First, I'm very concerned about environmental issues -- I'm truly green. But I'm opposed to recycling because of what we just saw in the video and because of the energy/fuel it takes to gather it. This myth -- our desire to feel less guilty -- leads to lots of big, diesel-burning trucks skipping through our neighborhoods. Until there is a robust, direct, close recycling program, let's skip the charade. Sorry.

  30. @Dan AND... stop using big diesel engine vehicles to pick them up. Could be done with electric powered vehicles, but that would mean fighting status quo.

  31. @Dan So instead of one big truck doing the rounds, you prefer every neighborhood's car driving to and lining up at the recycling center? You certainly can't cart all that heavy paper on a bicycle, so you'd have to drive it.

  32. We are increasingly being forced to order online and that means a cardboard box. I am deluged in them, mostly from Amazon. I live in a city with a huge Amazon distribution center. Why are they not taking the cardboard back? They could easily reuse them and I could stop paying to have them hauled away.

  33. @Peggy it might be worth a try to organize cardboard collection sites (we have one at the firehouse) and contact a company that makes cardboard boxes and tubes, or recycles cardboard for re-use to pick it up. Even imprinted cardboard can be re-used.

  34. @Tina We have a cardboard collection center but there have been claims several times in the past months that the equipment was malfunctioning. Happened about the time the Chinese stopped taking our waste. Amazon is right here and could just reuse them. Had little faith in the recycle system, but not much encouraged in these times.

  35. @Peggy "forced to order online" Forced? Really? I am sure that a good many businesses were able (else no one would have been living there) to serve the needs of the people before there was "online". "We" forced the businesses out of business by not going to them and buying on line to save time, convenience, or money. We did it to ourselves. We are "forced to order online" because our own greed gave the giants like Amazon what it wanted and us with no other choice. It's not too late in many areas to still buy local and bring it home. When I was growing up it was weekly ritual I enjoyed. It also made a community.

  36. As city manager of this small town, we figured it out 15 years ago that our efforts to recycle plastic were futile. To the dismay of many locals, we focused on recycling paper and cardboard and enjoyed some measured success. The plastics industry had convinced our dismayed locals that my city management was wrong in our revised approach. Time has proved that we were on the right track. NFE

  37. Videos are cool, but this important information should also be written in an accompanying article, for those of us who still read.

  38. @Celeste And for those of us who need to keep our phones quiet so the sound doesn't disturb others! I don't want to use earbuds constantly. I, too, am a reader.

  39. @Celeste Yes, this is not the first time I came for information and had to watch a video to obtain it. I can almost always acquire the information more quickly and remember it better if I read it. That way, if I want to go back and check a point in light of something said later in the article, I can search for it instantly. Or if later there's a phrase from an article that sticks in my head, I can search for it in the archive. Or sometimes if there's a particularly incisive paragraph that sums up something I've been wrestling with, I might even screenshot the paragraph to have as a reference later. I accept, I guess, that we're living in a post-literate world, but I don't want the Times throw me off the literacy cliff quite so precipitously.

  40. @Celeste I suspect that most people who read were already on to the recycle con long ago. It has been written about extensively. The message is the right one: assume nothing is recyclable. If you care about the environment, make choices that create less trash for any container. It is really hard now. I don’t so much worry about landfills. Perhaps because where I live on the gulf coast the landfills are already the highest ground around and nothing beats high ground in a hurricaine. I assume that like the natives, we will be living on them one day. I worry about plastics and related chemicals. Something is driving down testosterone, damaging sperm and damaging DNA causing Autism. It began around the time of the ubiquity of plastic film which is used to an absurd degree. I am old enough to remember before, when we bought toilet paper without plastic film. Now we fear contamination of the paper we will use to wipe our rears. It is nuts. We put the bananas and oranges. already wrapped in nature’s packaging in plastic bags. Why? I come home from the grocery store and end up with more volume of discarded packaging than food. A serious person who wants to reduce their ecological impact consumes less and consumes differently. A serious recycler recycles by re-using things themselves. The rest are posing.

  41. Great piece. The biggest problem to recycling and all other environmental issues are the people who think global warming is a myth and the political party that puts corporate profits over people and thinks corporations are people too. You guessed it, the GOP and conservatives.

  42. @Jack Chielli You also need to blame some leftists who insist that overpopulation is not a problem. Of course this position is also aided by the global gag rule promulgated by religious extremists who won't allow world aid organizations to provide birth control and access to abortion, because government funding would then be withheld.

  43. It is also a political and cultural scam. We feel like heroes because we painstakingly divide our trash into categories often spending Sat mornings at local recycling centers without any clear understanding of the relative benefit of our efforts. We could accomplish so much more by buying a lot less unnecessary stuff, especially poorly made stuff and nonsense like bottled water. We could wear our clothes until they are worn out. We could eat a lot less meat. Most of all, we could refrain from having more than two children and elect politicians that will pursue foreign policy that encourages international women's rights and birth control. However, we have an economy whose health relies on an ever expanding market for those unnecessary consumer goods. If we stop buying more and more stuff and expanding the consumer market by an ever rising human population it will be very bad for the economy. Damage the economy or kill the planet. Sophie's choice, but really, only one is a sustainable one.

  44. @alan haigh Thank you. Back in the 70s (before the Reagan era equated environmental consciousness with crackpots) the biggest talking point was population control. Women were encouraged to be more independent, work outside the home, and have fewer children. I don't know why today people are quibbling over recycling paper or plastic instead of addressing the real problem: too many people.

  45. @alan haigh Thank you, Alan, these are the key underlying issues. Consume less, resist the urge to "upgrade", avoid buying all that low quality stuff that get used a few times and then tossed, or perfectly good items that are no longer in style (advertising created demand). A cultural and economic shift in values -- let's recognize sustainability and stewardship as key to a a healthy economy, a longterm view, rather than the focus on sales growth, convincing people to buy more and more stuff in the short term. We could use shared conversations across generations as well as parties. See the Story of Stuff, for more on this how producers have hoodwinked us and externalized the substantial environmental costs.

  46. @alan haigh Your 'Sophies choice' is playing into the false narrative that capitalist corporations are pushing; which is that we must choose between a healthy sustainable planet or a prosperous economy. Actually they are not mutually exclusive. We can, and must, have both. It's mostly a political problem, not a technical problem.

  47. Good educational piece. But, um, its the environmental movement as much as industry that has misled us here. And this editorial also indulges in the biggest mistruth: That there's something wrong or bad or undesirable about landfills. The problem isn't that plastics and other materials arent recyclable, per se. The problem is... well there really isn't any problem. There's just a hyped up bogus pseudo problem: that landfills are bad Landfills are not bad. They're great. The tech works. The refuse is turned back into soil. Do certain items and substances take a long long long time to decompose. Yes. So what. Thats totally fine, even helpful. And we have oodles and oodles of space for landfills. If the entire USA population lived with the density of New York City, we would fill up a land area the size of the state of Vermont. So while this editorial is helpful, its also harmful, because it continues the false, alarmist portrayal of landfills. Recycling is a sham, yes, but relax -- it doesnt matter,

  48. @Harry Mylar Plastics do not "turn back into soil" it merely breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic. Some take a few decades, others 1,000 years. But in the end it's still plastic.

  49. @Harry Mylar This is such a bad take. Environmental science is not a scam. We know that concentrated chemicals leach from landfills into the surrounding ecosystems and have toxic effects for generations. Perhaps landfills are part and parcel with humanity, we've lived with midden heaps since prehistory. The problem isn't landfills per se, it's where we put them, what we put in them, and the affects of those choices. Would you like having your family exposed to contaminated drinking water? The companies producing these plastics have externalized the costs of managing the waste onto the citizen, but that is not right. Producers of products should pay for the harms their products cause, only then can consumers make a true cost/benefit analysis. And perhaps then, producers will be incentivized to innovate and reduce harm (waste).

  50. @Harry Mylar Regarding your comment "the refuse is turned back to soil" the typical regulated landfill is constructed to seal in the refuse between layers of compacted clay, plastic liners, drainage tiles and other material. Because of the compaction of the trash, no air is introduced in the landfill so nothing breaks down...even "compostable" products So the idea that all of this trash turns into soil is misleading.

  51. ... just wanted to add to the discussion, that FIRST and foremost we should be talking about consuming less. Period. No more single-use. No more tchotchkes plastic 'give-aways' at kids parties. No more plastic bags and bottles. We managed just fine without any of these things just 40-50 years ago. We can do it again, but legislation is needed since corporate America prefers not to reimagine itself.

  52. @avigail milder Amen! Another example: Grocery shopping gets simpler (and more healthful) when you just walk on by everything swathed in unnecessary plastic. Although I confess, I miss birthday cake, and the days it could be bought in a cardboard box.

  53. @Andrea You can buy sugar and flour in paper bags and use them to make birthday cake.

  54. @avigail milder Absolutely. I am no saint in the environmental stewardship world but I do try. I have 2 tiny (old grocery store plastic bag size) bags of trash, max, each week. Yes, I am single (with a dog) but all else does not come in the door to begin with (your point) or gets composted/given to the critters in the woods of my backyard or recycled (although now I see some of that recycling is a sham).

  55. On the coasts of Asia Pacific most of the plastic garbage infesting the land and water is from take-away food packaging: styrofoam, plastic cups and straws, plastic bags that are used to carry the styrofoam and plastic cups and utensils. Imagine how much less of these toxic materials there would be in the environment if people just stopped purchasing food in plastic. But I'd rather complain about the problem while drinking my Starbucks double grande whatever in a throwaway container and plastic lid. Everyday. Yep.

  56. The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us believe they were anything other than organized crime syndicates, plundering and pillaging our common home, the Earth, with the consent and protection of our governments. Why do the economic One Percent, who own the vast majority of corporate equity, have "limited liability" under the law, effectively shielding them from responsibility for their actions? When "maximize profits" is the only moral code governing corporations, sociopathic behavior is the guaranteed result. Much of our packaging waste problem could be solved with a shift to standardized, reusable containers and the elimination of all non-essential packing materials. But since this would mean a cut in profits for the petrochemical and fossil fuel industries, it will be resisted at all cost.

  57. @ando arike Agreed, limited corporate liability is at the root of this problem and many others. It's time is up.

  58. @ando arike This would be very cool if there were standardized flip top totes used for all electronic commerce, similar to pallet reuse.

  59. @ando arike The Tylenol murders of 1982 were a turning point in the packaging of consumer goods. The fear of poisoning, and more recently of tampering, has led to a widespread plasticizing and hardening of packaged materials. I don't think anyone likes this outcome (corporations included).

  60. I’ve been trying to buy products without plastic packaging but it isn’t easy. You can do an internet search for plastic-free products but that doesn’t get you a lot of options. There is a dishwashing bar of soap, which is what I now use. Also some laundry detergent pods that come in a cardboard box. These I love. I think it’s great if everyone would buy whatever plastic-free products they can, so as to show that this is something people want. Just my 2 cents.

  61. @Becky There are also bars of shampoo and conditioner. The wrapping was plastic, but less than a bottles worth.

  62. The gist of the piece is correct, but a couple of points are unfair. First, the 2/7 recyclable types of plastic, PETE and HDPE, are over 80% of all plastic. Many recycling programs (e.g. MA DEP 1990s) saw that when they accepted "all" plastics, that the net recovery of PETE and HDPE increased. By trying to 'educate' consumers 'which' plastics to recycle, we had lost participants, and it was more effective to accept 'all' plastics as a loss leader. Second, supply must precede demand. Plastic recycling was basically invented by the bottle bill, which gathered so much PETE bottle plastic that someone could reasonably invest in factories to recycle it. It worked. It has not worked for 3-7 plastics, unless more purchases of thick (impurity tolerant) plastic lumber occur (and there should be a LCA of that product). Third, there is a tired and bigoted reference to "shipping to China". Recycling plants sort plastic and label it "for sale". It is sold to people who bid for and buy it. Chinese started buying it in the 1990s, and recently stopped buying it. It is identity politics to state that someone in the USA was a decisionmaker and "shipped it to" someone. -Robin

  63. @Robin thanks for the nuanced additions to this piece.

  64. @Robin Raw material subsidy has to end; Reform the General Mining Act of 1872, and the World Bank and IMF policies promoting it internationally. When price of raw materials goes up, recycling will pay for itself.

  65. Success in America is defined by consumption. Pure and simple. We are an indulgent people who want to reward ourselves for every little triumph and sooth ourselves for every little trial. Consumerism makes up about 70% of our economy and is rising. We are all complicit. We consume, therefor we are.

  66. To all those who say there ought to be a law.... How did that work with the soft drink industry? Taxes on a substance that we know kills us are consistently fought. Do you think it will go any differently with laws about plastics?

  67. @Anita The soda tax works as intended in my city. Consumption is down and revenue for things like parks and pre-K education are up. As far as I am aware, the people that decry this tax the most are from the American Beverage Association, not my fellow Philadelphia residents. The ABA spent many, many thousands of dollars trying to drup up grassroots opposition but it never seemed to materialize.

  68. Single-stream recycling as currently implemented in America can never work well. As a result, I've become convinced that what we ought to do is: 1. Ban the use of Vinyl (PVC) and any other chlorinated plastics in packaging. 2. Allow essentially all other metal, glass, cardboard, and paper to be tossed into the recycling bin. 3. At the recycling facility, separate out the steel and aluminum and such glass as will separate. 4. Incinerate everything else in a waste-to-energy incinerator. This would be reasonably carbon neutral and allow recycling rules that are simple and can easily be conformed to. The other thing we should do over time, of course, is aggressively cut down on the amount of nearly-useless packaging that seems to be burgeoning everywhere. At my house, that makes up the bulk of what we throw into our single-stream recycling bin.

  69. I would like to add: #5: Stop expecting recycling programs to pay for themselves. Everything good that governments do cost money; that includes recycling. It’s ok to tax citizens and use the revenue to do good things for them. That’s called “leadership”.

  70. @Vanyali > #5: Stop expecting recycling programs > to pay for themselves. I agree and I'll gladly add that to my list going forward; please consider your suggestion as incorporated above. Your point leads to another point, though and that's that the corporations that are choosing to produce all of these products in unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging are externalizing costs that they themselves should be paying by pushing those costs onto local governments (taxpayers). It needn't be this way.

  71. Moving to reusable containers is the way to do. Standardize containers across the board. Make it easy for the customer to not have to worry about the what, where, who, how. The collection bins should be at all grocers. Heck new green businesses that would collect, clean, ship back to the manufacturers. Resistance is always going to be there because the alternative may be cheaper. But long term, the reusables are most likely to win the battle.

  72. Continuation: If the entire human race and every individual wants to ensure well being of their children and oneself and therefore the planet, then why should there be resistance to not make it better? It baffles my mind. New economic models free of plastics implies both winners and losers -- not just losers. Need new infrastructures in place that support the above, and work hand in hand with the ecosystems of the planet. Shame on all the leaders who refuse to be aligned with this.

  73. In this era of alternative facts and greed, this OP-Ed is par for the course. My mother and father were raised during the depression. Nothing was discarded before it was truly 'worn out'. It is not what you earn it is what you keep. In the US tap water is generally quite safe and just as safe as that bottled water that comes wrapped in a plastic bottle. Also, tap water is free. Many, many other examples. Live your life like your great grandparents did. You will have more money in your retirement account, you will eat better food, and you will be a natural recycler because you will not use things that need to be recycled.

  74. Tap water has never been completely safe in most of the places I’ve lived in the US. I didn’t even find out about the lead crises in some of the cities I’ve lived in until I was moving out, after years of blithely assuming my water was fine. There are good reasons people buy water and other beverages to cut down on what they drink from the tap.

  75. Also old pipes can lead to gross tasting, brown water.

  76. @Vanyali I have an airbnb guest suite, and I always fill up a pitcher of filtered drinking water from my RO (reverse osmosis) system. But, often guests return the full pitcher at the end of their stay. Since our tap water doesn't taste good, I have to think they're drinking water from plastic bottles they've brought in. Maybe they the bottled water is safer?

  77. I believe it is the law somewhere in Europe (I want to say Germany?) that when you purchase anything from a store, the store must provide a bin near the exit, in case you wish to get rid of any excess packaging materials when you purchase something. I suspect fees for trash collection at homes are high if you have a lot of it, so people take advantage of this service. As a result, manufacturers keep packaging to a minimum, at the urging of retailers.

  78. I use coffee pods that are completely biodegradable. The only “plastic” on it is made from corn. One time I ordered a product, and it came in a “plastic” bag made from taro root. So, there are ways to combat the plastic problem. We have to break the stranglehold of the plastics industry.

  79. @Kb I use refillable pods that I can wash out afterwards. You don't have to look far for green alternatives.

  80. @John There is an environmental trade-off related to water use. In more arid places it makes sense to use the biodegradable pods.

  81. Substituting food-based plastics for oil-based plastics is a nightmare for people with food allergies. And once the corn is made into plastic I don’t think it is nearly so biodegradable as you assume, especially in the anaerobic conditions of a landfill. So many ways we use plastic nowadays are so completely unnecessary, like the whole idea of coffee pods. There are many other very easy ways to make a cup of coffee.

  82. This is an Opinion article. So this cartoon is the opinion of the authors. How do we know their opinion is factual, objective or sensible. My opinion is these authors are looking to blame businesses that provide products requiring packaging. How do the authors propose to transport packaged products or durable products from a store to home or office where they consume or use them? Even a recycle tax will not solve the inability to recycle plastic if we believe their hypothesis. We could collect tax money but they just told us they have no solutions. What will they do with the new money...more research, bigger landfills?

  83. If we taxed plastic packaging, companies would come up with ingenious paper packaging as a substitute. Which would be a good thing. They just need a push in the right direction.

  84. @Ronzino I was in Germany last year. My sister had to separate, newspaper, glass white from green, food-scraps and trash. There are four different containers provided for that. A fine is given if a person is found out. China and other countries rightfully no longer take our garbage. It will force us to re-think. Or shall I say corporations. They too have children and grandchildren who will inherit this planet. Think globally not locally.

  85. A good portion of this video is accurate. However, its flippancy toward "corporations" and the recycling process is highly problematic. In the Trump era, we must make every effort to accept and report the facts. Shading the facts to help make our noble point is ultimately destructive to public discourse. This video is an example of that and it is disappointing and concerning.

  86. The three Rs in order of importance; 1. Reduce - buy whatever you can in glass or paper packaging, bring your own bags when making purchases, shop non packaged farmers markets whenever possible, think of ways to reduce plastic consumption. 2. Reuse 3. Recycle - this is the last option and if we are able to reduce plastic in our buying habits there should be a lot less plastic in that recycling bin.

  87. On a recent trip to Vancouver BC I came across two stores where you buy or bring in your own container and fill it with many things that are hard to find not in plastic, as cleaning supplies of all types. I thought it was brilliant and wished this was all over the US. They had tons of other green products and then entire city seemed much more plastic-less, including lots of places to fill up your reuseable water bottle. It's doable if our country demands it, but instead we have people mad about their right to a plastic straw.

  88. @Celeste We saw a similar store in Spain. There may be examples here in the US, but it's hardly the norm.

  89. @Celeste At our Coop here in the state of Washington we can buy most staples in bulk: dishwashing, laundry detergents, Dr Bronners liquid soap, shampoo, balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil and on. This is really the way we should be buying these types of goods, in bulk refilling the containers we bring to re-supply.

  90. @Celeste Plastic straws are important to people who have hand related disabilities, otherwise I agree with you.

  91. It sounds like a great video. I'd recommend a transcript next time if the message is that worthwhile.

  92. @Paul in NJ Exactly. I never bother with videos. Information comes too slowly and there is more emotional manipulation.

  93. @Paul in NJ After watching the video I just realized there is in fact a transcript. Lower left corner of the video is a small square to click on.

  94. @Arthur Correction: Lower right/middle side. Unfortunately there are no space breaks for forming paragaragraphs.

  95. If only there was a tech billionaire with a massive philanthropic foundation and heavily invested in waste management who could save us. That and a third way green mindful billionaire and natural gas bridge supporter running for president. Almost utopian. Cheap plastics from the shale boom: 1) Natural and associated gas from conventional (reservoir) and unconventional (source or shale/tight rock) fields. 2) Natural gas processing to separate out hydrocarbon gas liquids (ethane, propane butane and pentanes) from methane. Methane goes to electricity generation, heating, LNG exporting, manufacturing and some plastics manufacturing. 3) Light hydrocarbon separation to isolate ethane. Some propane goes to plastics. The rest of the hydrocarbon gas liquids goes to anything from heating to diluting bitumen from Canada. 4) Ethane cracking to form ethylene 5) Option: chlorination for different kinds of plastics. 6) Polymerization of ethylene to polyethylene as plastic feed stock and/or precursors. 7) Plastic stuffs manufacturing from packaging to household items. 8) End use of plastic stuffs and eventual discard. 9) Recycling? Reuse? Waste-to-energy? Landfilling? Back 40? Side of the road?

  96. Wonderful wonderful!!! I’ve been saying that to my husband and family but they call me leftist. That’s exactly what I believe ALMOST NOTHING gets recycled. Now I avoid supermarket and have been buying from a deliverable out of the city organic cooperative (just) because they deliver all the produce together in a big cartoon box (no wrapping whatsoever). I still can’t figure it out what to do with milk though. WE SHOULD PAY FOR EXTRA GARBAGE WE CREATE.

  97. I think many of us have realized that much of recycling is a scam. Here in Indianapolis, residents still pay extra to have their recyclables hauled away in an extra bin when it probably ends up in the same place as all the other trash - the landfill. What we should be focusing on is reusable packaging and packaging that is landfill friendly. That is the notice that I would like to see on my disposable packaging. I would like to know how long it would take for an item to degrade. Five years? Ten? Twenty? I think that is something that would change my purchasing habits.

  98. Wow reminds me when going to the store, my mother had her flour, her sugar, candy etc weight into a little brown bag. Milk we had to pick up with a milk can, sodas and juice came in glass bottles and was returnable. Toys were not wrapped in heavy plastic. It is tIme to go back to those days. Also it creates jobs as stores will need to hire more sales people again. Presently I safe food scraps and drop them of at the local recreation place, where hopefully it will be used for mulching.

  99. @Nob sadly plastics and consumerism creates jobs. if we did away with ll unnecessary purchases our economy would reel

  100. Re-useable shopping bags, learn to cook and clean, avoid ordering in. Buy a filter.

  101. We are all complicit. I am staring at a pile of cardboard and plastic bubble mailers that were delivered to our home in the past 2 weeks and am trying to recall a time when we actually consolidated shopping trips and picked up necessities every few weeks rather than relying on free 2 day shipping. Perhaps a good New Years resolution for our family would be to go a week, a month, a year without any online purchases.

  102. @GeriMD Great point--but since so many people DO rely on shipped purchases, brick-and-mortar stores in sizable cities may be so far from home that you can use up to hour's worth of gas to get there and back, so you'd have to do some complex math to figure out if that compensates for the shipping materials and gas powering the delivery trucks that regularly ply the neighborhoods.

  103. As a former exec in the recycling space, and as a consumer long troubled by misinformation in the marketplace, bravo for some stark honesty about holes in the system. However, responsibility for change starts with consumers demanding more of consumer products companies and of government. Collection is a better next step than outright bans. But that costs money, both in increased costs for goods to fund a better collection system (including a national deposit system) and in taxes to support municipal collection systems. It also requires consumer effort to sort. Single stream collection has to stop. Europe has already built a model that deserves our close study. How about a follow up about a system that will work? Also, let’s get moving with a new curriculum for the youth of America.

  104. @Peter Zurkow Did you miss the part of the article where the petrochemical industry decided a “greenwashing” campaign was in order to slow demand for change and make things like plastic bags and single use plastics more acceptable?

  105. @Peter Zurkow So, yeah, the consumer has to take responsibility - buy why the heck do companies have to wrap things in several layers of plastic and paper + styrofoam?! What sort of a political system do we have that accommodates that?! Ya know - I think the consumer is a truly oppressed constituent. The consumer should be paid to consume and to sort out the mess pas the rubbish. Cheers, D

  106. I have been working for years to encourage people to stop using plastic, yet people still buy water when we live in Vermont and have great water. I have metal water bottles that go with me everywhere, I haven't taken a plastic or paper bag from any store in decades. I have three composts-the third is for paper products, corn cups etc. Any board I have been on, I insist that we use only green products and compost everything. I have large potlucks at my house, no dishwasher, but I buy metal cutlery at restaurant supply stores and keep 75 cheap forks aside for that and have enough plates etc so everything is green. I cut up old clothes so we almost never use paper towels . I also write to companies about their use of plastic and I try to only go to green restaurants.I shop local at farmer's market. It is our responsibility to think about what we are doing to our planet. It breaks my heart to see young whales walked up on beaches full of plastic.

  107. @Marcy Tanger "no dishwasher"....I thought washing a load of dishes in a dishwasher uses much less water than hand washing (?)

  108. While consumers should try to reduce waste the biggest contributors to climate change are the oil and gas industry and big agribusiness, but Trump and cronies have gleefully shredded regulations around these and other industries. How many of you have take 5 minutes to text or call your Congress person about this issue?

  109. @Cindy Mackie even our Congress people are in the pay of big oil and agribusiness.

  110. @Cindy Mackie What good would that do? They are on the take.

  111. @Cindy Mackie I email my congressmen and senator often. Fat lot of good...

  112. Gee, what a surprise, corporations and government colluding to deceive the the public. Perhaps our form of governance, buy the laws and regulations you need to succeed, truly is the greatest government of all time. It certainly is the best government money can buy.

  113. @old soldier — I'm not worried though, because god fearing lawyers like Bill Barr will protect the Constitution, King Trump and our country from Congress. Hey it's the American way. Talk to Rudy.

  114. I am sure many of the points you mention are true but the answer is more complex than most problems. Here are at least three guidelines imo that history has taught us. 1-Don't go to fast ie tomorrow outlaw all plastic and make everybody bring a bio degradable tote bag to the market. Not only would that put millions of people out of work and cause an upheaval in the economy, all sorts of other problems would result, #1 being germ ladened bags. 2-Don't do the opposite, ie since the problem is so complex, do nothing about it. 3-Do concentrate on the middle ground. Get a consensus of fair minded people, not the extremes ie greenies and corporations and come up with a sensible approach and be willing to alter it if parts of it don't work.

  115. Consumers and producers must both figure out how to avoid plastics altogether. Change will come from collective action across the board at individual, corporate and political levels. In the meantime, I am buying in bulk at food stores, bringing my own containers, and buying products from companies who have changed their packaging. Get started in zero waste habits by looking at all of the Youtube videos and blogs by those who have been doing this for years. You don't have to be zero waste altogether, but the tips are useful. Still this is a shared problem at individual and corporate levels. I stock shelves for my local food coop. There are plenty of single use health drinks and stacks of organic and ethnic convenience foods that arrive encased in plastic sheeting, all purchased by well meaning and those seeking better health and a better environment. So we need solutions from the manufacturing level as well, despite out efforts to buy green, local, organic and healthy. I can even fill up my own shampoo bottle when I bring it in, but it gets filled from a bulk plastic jug, which may or may not end up actually being recycled.

  116. The world is drowning in plastic. It has become an essential component in manufacturing and packaging. If we went back to wood, metal, and glass, the costs to make and ship goods would go way, way up. There are environmental injuries associated with those materials too. The root problem is human consumption, which drives the global economy. How do we stop that? Doing so would halt technological progress. This is an important philosophical problem our societies have not bothered to address. In the meantime, we should burn the stuff. We can make special power plants with strong scrubbers to remove the pollutants from the air and turn the waste into electricity. There just isn't any place to put the waste and it takes centuries to break down. In fact, as it breaks down, it turns to powder which gets ingested by wildlife, which ultimately becomes a part of everything that everything eats, especially us.

  117. @Bruce Rozenblit I'll take a habitable environment over "technological progress" any day. I'm thinking right now about all the progress we've enjoyed over the past 50 years and while there's been plenty of societal progress, with the exception of medical innovation I'm not sure that much of our "technological progress" has improved our lives much, if at all.

  118. I feel sick to my stomach after watching that video, as I am vigilant about recycling, and depended on recycling to assuage my guilt about purchasing items in plastic. But I also had an underlying suspicion that our plastic wasn’t being recycled, since it’s an expensive undertaking and I assumed that business executives would rationalize not spending money on something that wasn’t profitable. Now I can no longer deceive myself regarding my own consumption patterns. We must elect leaders who fully grasp the urgency of this moment, and find a way to do better. Even if it’s too late to prevent catastrophic change, we still have a moral obligation to the generations that came before us, as well as the generations that we hope will come after us.

  119. Plastic water bottles are indeed "recyclable". But they are almost NEVER recycled. There is simply limited demand for such low grade plastic waste (that's what it is - waste). So 90+% go into landfills in the best case scenario. But a lot goes into our waterways and the oceans creating enormous harm to wildlife. And really just making things ugly. The most depressing thing about this situation is that it is totally and absolutely unnecessary. Corporations only recently (25 years or so) discovered they could sell water in a bottle. And we now mindlessly buy it. We have been trained to buy water in plastic bottles over the past 25 years. Some imagine this is the healthy option. NOPE. You know what is in 100% of water packed in plastic? Plastic particles! Pretty obvious, right? We must get ourselves off of the plastic treadmill and fast.

  120. @Will.Sometimes public shaming is appropriate. Purchasing large quantities of bottled water is such a case. Also, Nestle is a threat to what little clean water we have left.

  121. Start a $1 surcharge to EVERY SINGLE PACKAGE. Grocery sends 6 boxes, then charge $6. Make online ordering more painful.

  122. I couldn't even make it through this because of the ridiculously cute and clever graphics and animation, complete with chorus. I mean it doesn't have to have a dirge as accompaniment but this cutesy cleverness undermines the message.

  123. I suppose corporations are to blame for this problem at the margin, but I think people rarely consider the recyclability if their product or its packaging when making consumer decisions. Look at the pushback against attempts to ban plastic bags, which are an obvious blight and that everyone knows so rarely if ever recycled. Our problem is that we as a society prefer convenience to eco friendly-ness. The answer is taxing plastic products until they are undesirable.

  124. @Big Cow - " pushback against attempts to ban plastic bags" My resistance to bans on plastic bags is not in the bad but in how they are enacted - which usually includes some kind of mandatory fee for non-plastic bags. For decades markets provided paper bags at no additional cost. They can do so again. No need to charge. Many stores, restaurants, and retailers never used plastic bags but are now required to charge customers for bags (typically with the store name on them, essentially requiring them to pay for the store's advertising) that they had been providing with purchase for, well, ever. This is how it was implemented in Boston.

  125. @Marie Disposable paper bags take a lot of resources to manufacture. A paper bag is also many times heavier than plastic, which makes it much less efficient to ship to your location whole foods.

  126. @Big Cow Here in CT, the bag tax has so infuriated people that it’s generated a lot less tax revenue than expected. I see people walking out of the grocery store with their hands full or a cart full of unbagged groceries to avoid paying 10 cents for a bag. I have done so myself. So I would tend to agree with you.

  127. Very true on several fronts. One area not mentioned is the contract that communities have with recycling providers. What does the contact state about education costs per household per year? Does the provider have staff that checks the recycling tote for compliance before the truck comes? Where I live they will tag your tote with a note on the issue. The majority of households recycle incorrectly. In addition how many recycling containers will most German households have? The average is about five. Single stream recycling has led to increased contamination.

  128. The manufacturers have shifted their responsibility to local communities and consumers rather than owing it themselves. Plastic needs to be eliminated in all but essential cases. Beverage and food containers can be glass, uniform size, and taken back by food and beverage companies and reused twenty times before being crushed. A bottle deposit of $2? Stop all packaging for most products or just simple paper that can be recycled. A tax on virgin paper pulp, aluminium, and glass would encourage use of recycled paper .

  129. @john There are complications though, aren't there? A 32 oz. glass bottle weighs 1 pound, the same plastic bottle less than an ounce. Now you are shipping around 16x more packaging weight than before, mostly on diesel-fueled trucks. To reuse that glass bottle 20 times there is more energy expended to haul it back to a plant and wash it. Do we ultimately use fewer resources with the glass bottle, or not? I have no idea.

  130. There are 2 sides to this coin; don’t overlook the second side. True—many plastics and other materials are not recyclable. True, also— other plastics ARE recyclable and also sold by local government recycling operations for a NET PROFIT to private manufacturers who use the purchased plastics in producing their own products. In our little rural county in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (24,000 population in the entire county), our recycling operation does exactly that. With sale of certain plastics, our operation generates revenue and shows an operating profit. So that’s a two-fer: recycling AND profiting from it.

  131. Talking about environmentalism without addressing population growth is like discussing electric cars without considering charging stations. Average Americans have significantly reduced their per capita pollution but nationally we have increased pollution because we have added over 100 million people to our population through immigration since 1970. Just to be clear, that's 50 million immigrants, 40 million children of immigrants and 30 million grandchildren of immigrants. That is one third of America's population and one third of our pollution. During the same time the world's population has increased from 3.5 billion to people to over 7.5 billion. Without this growth, there is no global warming. Every environmental problem we face today would be addressable. But, no one wants to talk about the continuing explosion of population in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Closing your eyes doesn't make the problem go away.

  132. @Michael Green Until humans feel discomfort and real consequences, we will never stop having children. We are biologically wired to produce a lot more of us. We need government leadership, family planning and empowerment of women on this issue and right now we have a joke for a federal government. I suspect a larger problem is humans really do think we are special, we have our own God, etc. and many people simply don't see a problem with no limits on human behavior.

  133. @climate refugee Also, we may not immediately notice when overpopulation is affecting us. The younger generation hasn't experienced enough to be aware of change. For example, cheap, attractive furniture is going to contain plastic, and is not able to be refinished, so is discarded after a few years. The young people may not have known any other way. Laminate flooring instead of wood flooring is another example. The reason for these plastic products is that the natural resource of wood is more scarce relative to the number of people who want to buy furniture and flooring.

  134. No, it’s the explosion of consumption in first world countries that is driving climate change. The countries you cite have far lower carbon footprints than Americans. This is a not so thinly veiled effort to stir up anti-immigrant feelings and shift focus to poor, largely non white people. Appalling.

  135. The solution, like every problem facing us today, is complicated. The ideas in these comments are mostly helpful, however, implementation is not easy. Attempts to achieve a realistic solution results in a strong division of opinions, not unlike the dramatic political split we are experiencing. Let’s take the most achievable few ideas and figure out how to act on them. Enough talk, we need more action.

  136. We should levy an excise tax on all plastic. Make them expensive. Very expensive. The amount of the tax should be sufficient to remediate the impact of plastic on the environment. Plastic can be useful in products designed for very long periods, but is counter productive used as a disposable.

  137. The tax should be on oil and petrochemicals, and it should be a big increase to incentivize sustainable packaging, transport, and all else. If plastics and petroleum products were double the cost, cotton and bamboo clothes and who knows what innovations could compete. If gasoline was double, and jet fuel more, trains would come back; power them with renewable electric and maybe we could even claw back some highway rights of way for rail. It’s clear incremental feel good fixes ain’t going to cut it. We can take a little pain to transition now, and save our kids and their kids some of the inevitable big pain that is coming. Maybe in the process, we will relearn how to be civil and a society and get our faces out of our phones.

  138. Why is it on consumers to change? Waste management is, and always has been, a collective action problem. Same with climate change. If we want people to eat less red meat, then remove subsidies that make beef cheaper. Collective action - in this case removing subsidies - push the true cost of an activity to individuals. We've tried to make recycling easy, but it actually isn't. Some things are hard, and we should just accept that. In Germany there's strict rules about what material goes in which bin, shored up by color coding, and strict fines. It isn't perfect, but hey, it works pretty well.

  139. @Danny Yes, and in Germany any company putting packaging into the marketplace must pay a fee based on the materials they choose, funding the system that collects these materials. It places the burden where it belongs: on the producer that profits and it forces them to pass on the cost to in the consumer. Early on in Germany's 'Yellow Bag' system for plastics there were scandals over where some of these materials end up, but the principle of who bears the burden of packaging is entirely correct. But even in Germany the beverage industry has succumbed to the plastic plague: fewer people than before use cases of returnable beverage bottles, where the deposit fee is in usually in excess of the beverage in the container (assuring return of empties & the next purchase). Here, instead of having prices reflect recycling cost, we externalize onto the consumer and their municipality, which may or may not have a plan to deal with it. Pretending some invisible hand will find a way to deal with 'bads' is a pernicious illusion that somehow still has appeal in our market. In Colorado, the two mega-brewers Coor & Anheiser-Bush lobbied to made sure we don't even have a bottle bill that other states do (5c or 10c deposit). We obviously don't have the landfill space problem Europe has, but is that a reason to be less responsible with our waste?

  140. @Danny Why do you need meat to be more expensive to eat less of it? The fact is that the food industry will respond to consumer pressure and demand. Decide for yourself to to cut back on meat and dairy because they're damaging to health and the environment. Shop more in the produce section and supermarkets will have to stock more produce to meet consumer demand. As much as individuals don't want to change, corporations want to change even less...after all, it's bad for them financially. But cutting back on meat and eating a healthier diet is better for you financially and health-wise. And better for the planet.

  141. The root problem is that some things are free (sort of). You pay for a product and the packaging is 'free' even when it pollutes. What if they had to charge extra for a wasteful package? You bet there would suddenly be products in less wasteful packages. Alternatively, what if by some miracle, all our consciousnesses were raised and we took the packaging back to the retailers and left it at their doors? Wow, that would get some action. Warning: it would involve government, yes the government so many thoughtless people want less of. We need it to do what we cannot do for ourselves.

  142. @99Percent 25 years ago, I rented a house that got hit twice daily with weely ads in a plastic bag. I begged and pleaded with the local paper to stop. They didn't so I saved a van load and dumped them on the papers front steps in the middle of the night. That felt good.

  143. @99Percent You don't have to take the plastic wrapping BACK. You can just leave it there when you buy your item. Even better, politely ask the cashier to unwrap it for you, and keep the trash. Everyone behind you in line will notice, for sure!

  144. Thanks for bringing attention to this problem - but your video doesn't clarify whether these plastics could actually be recycled if the proper laws, equipment, and/or economic incentives were in place.

  145. @Ed Brand I did not watch the video but : 1) I recently emailed my US Senators and Rep. to complain that ORANGE JUICE containers were recently downsized from 59 to 52 ounces . (silence) 2) I have been saying for years that recycling might benefit from local reuse plants required by law. Grind up or melt down and re-use material on a LOCAL or at least the STATE level. 3) A five gallon water cooler takes up 1 square foot of floor space. 4) some of my friends and family consider me a "socialist" I am sure. CONSERVATION IS CONSERVATIVE!

  146. First we need to have a President and and a party in power that is concerned about damage to the environment. Current policy by Trump and GOP is that corporate profits are the only priority.

  147. @LVG I think it's a stretch to say either of the major parties is "concerned about damage to the environment." Dems aren't as bad as the GOP, but we haven't had a president take the issue nearly as seriously as it should have been since at least Carter.

  148. You're behind a paywall, and most of us who pay our way through it can handle text. Reading, for those like us willing to do it, is faster, richer, and deeper than watching videos. You've wasted a good deal of time and energy here.

  149. @Keith Just curious... Say - 20 years ago - when you bought a printed newspaper, did you think of that as a "paywall?" Or did you think of buying a daily edition of a newspaper buying a publication, which included paying for the staff and production costs?

  150. @L I infer from Keith's words that he's paying his way through as am I, likely in part because we don't want quality journalism to evaporate, as our internet age threatens with so much free low-quality info. But I have a fear that the unnecessary videofication of much information is part of that cheapening. Because a video can force the viewer to watch an ad in real-time, while it's much easier for eyes to ignore a printed ad on the page. I don't think there's no easy solution to financial models for journalism vs. promoting an informed and free citizenry. I only have the easy observation that capitalism leaves a lot to be desired.

  151. @Keith Consider opening the video, and clicking on the button that gives you the transcript. If you're behind the paywall too, then you're paying for this - you might as well make a minimal effort to use it properly.

  152. We have a wonderful local yogurt producer, but after seeing how many containers we had to recycle from their yogurt, I wrote to them and asked why they did not use glass jars. They said it was too difficult for their small scale production (not too small, they sell in supermarkets over a wide area), that breakage and sterilizing would be difficult to handle. I thanked them for answering, but decided to purchase a good local yogurt that does come in glass jars, which are a deposit item and for which I get $2 back each when I return them.

  153. I’ve been making my own yogurt for more than 40 years using the same yogurt maker and glass jars. No waste plastic and no additives. It’s about as simple as boiling water.

  154. @LD Many electric pressure cookers now have yogurt making functions. Its worth the investment if you plan to make yogurt very often.

  155. @ND Yes, I did not get to that part of the story. I now use the glass jars to make my own yogurt, going back to the store every once in a while to get a fresh culture because I like it so much. All you do is bring a half gallon of whole milk to 180, keep it there for a while, let it cool to 110, then stir in 4 tablespoons of good yogurt, and keep it in a warm place from 5-8 hours- I use an insulated shopping container from the supermarket. Then refrigerate. Couldn't be more simple.

  156. Just let me get this straight. How long has all this been going on? During the 8 years of the environment-friendly Obama administration? Were they hoodwinked? Did they know? Care? If from before, why did they not stop it? Investigate? Is this something that cannot be blamed entirely on Mr. Trump?

  157. @Joshua Schwartz That's right. I cannot be blamed entirely on Trump. Nor can climate change, mass extinction, the population explosion, the refugee crisis, etc. Plenty of blame to go around. The question is, in the here and now, what are we all, including those with the most power, doing about it? The more power and influence, the more responsibility.

  158. @Joshua Schwartz This is not a matter of political liability. It is an example of corporate/finacialist control of America (and the world). Suggest you read Empire of Democracy by Reid-Henry, before worrying about which political party is responsible.

  159. @Bejay In view of that perhaps a clear statement of all candidates, declared and undeclared, coming out against this chicanery. It would be a lot easier then massive trillion dollar plans that would never be implemented, but harder as it is clear whom they would antagonize.

  160. And they have succeeded, absolving Americans for indulging in our hedonist behavior, unburdening our consciences about concern for the environment. It's okay to buy bottled water in a fresh pure plastic container, I don't have to carry my own re-usable water bottle, I can just toss the plastic one, after all, it is recyclable. My conscience is clear.

  161. @eclectico The kicker is that the worst offenders often call themselves "conservatives."

  162. Another example of privatizing profits while socializing costs. The sell the products, and reap the profits, but leaves it to the cities and towns to pay to clean up after them.

  163. I read about Keurig years ago and don't use their product, but the rest of this video is an eye opener. We live in a very frustrating environment that makes it almost impossible to buy anything not using some form of plastic container or wrapper. Big box stores like Costco drown their products in plastic. You buy a box wrapped in plastic, then once you remove the plastic wrap and open the box, each individual item is also wrapped in plastic. The whole thing is crazy, wasteful and so far like climate change, swept under the rug because there is no easy solution and corporations really don't care just as long as they make money.

  164. I changed to a vegan diet for health reasons. I lost twenty pounds, a lot of inflammation and halved the size of my weekly trash. I don't buy anything unless I need it. I downsized to a manufactured home with 1/4 the carbon footprint of my former home. Not looking for accolades, just ways that I can make a difference and feel empowered in the face of corporate negligence that is destroying our beautiful planet. Everything made should be recyclable or biodegradable, period.

  165. Interesting that this video was sponsored by Sabic, which Wikipedia tells me is the fourth largest chemical producer in the world in 2013 and, among other titles, is the third largest polyethylene manufacturer (plastic). So, is this them greening their portfolio or are the two completely disconnected? Plastics recycling is a tricky business and, the authors here are correct: we need to find ways to reduce our reliance. But, we can’t get completely off plastics (how many military relief planes have we seen kicking pallets of bottled water off the aircraft to provide clean drinking water to either areas that have no water or hurricane ravaged communities? Glass would not be a welcome sight). Legislation against plastic bags (urban tumbleweeds) is an excellent start. One thing we can all do is bring our own grocery bags to the store (or constantly reuse a plastic bag). Dry cleaners are next...I should be able to get my shirts without plastic, or in paper. As to people’s morning coffee...I quit my single serve machine three years ago to return to a coffee maker with a pot. Easy. While we may want to “do the right thing” the fault often lies with us.

  166. Indeed recycling is a tricky “business,” and therein lies the problem. Somewhere along the line we allowed recycling to become a business rather than recognizing the problematic nature of that designation. We should recognize that leaving recycling, especially of plastics, to the forces of the market, will result in much more waste that if we took the profit incentive out of it and simply conducted this activity as a public good subsidized by the public and the manufacturers and distributors.

  167. @Mark H The solution is two-part: People need to start changing their invidua behaviors, and companies need to change their practices. But companies aren't going to change unless consumers put economic pressure on them.

  168. @Ali There's also this old-fashioned thing called "regulation," and it could actually work pretty well if we'd abandon our insane faith in markets to solve all our problems and actually regulate the corporate "people" who are required by law to be sociopaths and are doing all the damage upstream.

  169. I have purchased small items online that could have been placed in a padded envelope. Often it comes in a box large enough to contain 2 shoe boxes. What is that about?

  170. @Me I'm getting ready to send out a couple things in padded envelopes that have the recycle symbol on them, but after watching this video, I wonder if these envelopes are really recyclable. Maybe cardboard is a better option?

  171. @Me Oh, I dunno. How about the now infamous word, "NONSENSE"? A few years ago I wanted to purchase a specific hinge what isn't particularly easy to find so I went online and found it from a Canadian company. The hinge itself is only about 3 inches by about a half inch and a little thicker than a credit card. The hinge cost $0.99 ..not even a buck, but the canadian company had the cost of shipping at $15 for a tiny hinge. I didn't bite, but have purchased other similar items with "free shipping" only to have to employ the use of my dazzling array or carton destruction devices to even get the item out of it's shipping container when a simple padded envelope would have done just fine. I once bought a SIM card online..You know...those postage stamp sized items? You could probably fit 50,000,000 of them in the container it was shipped in and by the time I got it out of the clamshell package big enough to ship several large hamburgers in I may have ruined my dazzling array of carton destruction devises.

  172. @Rita Prangle I save the envelopes for my own mailing purposes. But brown paper padded envelopes, padded with some kind of stuff that looks like lint, and may be, hopefully, some kind of recycled paper, are available.

  173. Globally our nation ranks 25 amongst nations who truly recycle their waste. Yet our nation for year was the top producer of such waste. While the FTC is charged with protecting consumers it has failed to do so in this instance. For decades, our leaders relegated recycling to state and local governments. It is time that we Re4M our outlook and create a national policy that seeks to curtail the use of non recyclable products. Further, we should insist that our lawmakers create a national policy that will improve our percentage of recycling as compared with other nations. Our President has set an ambitious plan and committed our nation to a new space race that will take us to the moon and beyond. We suggest that our President commit us to a global race that will rid our nation of toxic non recyclable products and invest in new technologies that will improve our recycling ability. As citizens of the greatest nation in the world, we need to Re4M our leadership and vote for lawmakers and executives who consider our national well being as a priority.

  174. If we produce less, we consume less, and we pollute less. One problem with American capitalism is its focus on the quarterly report. If it also weighed the costs incurred to future generations, we wouldn't be having such conversations.

  175. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Reduce is the key word. Refusing to purchase products that shift the disposal responsibility on the consumer reduces waste and recycling responsibilities. Being mindful of this helps makes the purchasing decision easier. There are plenty of choices for products that have minimal or no plastic packaging. Be aware of the impact of a purchase.

  176. This is good, but dont' throw the baby out with the bathwater. Recycling is still a good thing, we just need to put a lot more pressure on companies to design products accordingly and stop talking about "guilt". This is basic responsibility.

  177. Ironically, the ad I was shown just before the film was for Chevron (fossil fuels, of course, being the source of plastic, and the industry funding the concept of recycling in the 70s/80s).

  178. The partnership between advertising and journalism is maybe the single most influential conflict of interest in America. I was going to say that prize went to lobbyists and legislators, but the media-advertiser structure is the primary enabler of the lobbyist-lawmaker shenanigans. That's why I watch something like Democracy Now! when I really want to know what's going on in the world. Support independent journalism!

  179. Each company that packages its products in plastic/styrofoam/paper should be required to pay for this packaging BEFORE calculating the cost to the end user. In other words, businesses would have to pay, in advance, into a collective fund which would be used to either recycle the waste or pay to have it disposed of. Harsh? Yes? Unfair? I don't think so. Here's why: even though I'm a very conscientious person, there's hardly a consumer product sold today that isn't embedded in several layers of plastic, styrofoam and paper. I find it incredibly difficult to accept the fact that I'm forced to both pay for and dispose of a by-product I never asked for. You and I both know that the cost of this packaging is passed on to us, but the waste disposal is never accounted-for by those who basically force us to pay for their processes. Companies have always managed to socialize their costs at the expense of consumers and the environment. It's high time they started paying the full-freight of doing business.

  180. @mrfreeze6 Actually, you did ask for the by-products. You asked for the new stuff to look entirely and pristinely new when you first touch it, you asked it to be delivered to your door, and all at a cost you were willing to shoulder. Perhaps you should put your energies into persuading the buying public to settle for slight imperfections when they buy non-wrapped items off the shelves while they shop only at their local stores, as well as to patiently wait until the store has more stock of whatever it is they wanted. And good luck with that.

  181. @mrfreeze6 Why paper? Isn't paper biodegradable? I think we should use both carrots and sticks. I wouldn't mind it if the plastic packagers taxes went to subsidies for their competitors switching to glass or paper.

  182. @HMI No, you are incorrect. I happen to live in Italy, a place where we are forced to meticulously recycle everything (at great cost). I spend a lot of time shopping at local markets (better than yours in Brooklyn I bet) where there is far less emphasis placed on how things look than in the states. But let me focus on your main point: It doesn't matter if I'm forced or not forced to receive the packaging. What "universal law" states that I have to pay for it or that it's my job to recycle it? Consider also the impact that plastics are having worldwide. Companies would be far more likely to seek out alternatives to plastics if they were forced to pay for their recycling and disposal. At least I'm proposing action on this issue. The alternative is simply letting things go as they are which is simply a disaster for much of the world.

  183. I just have a question for any scientists or engineers in here who might, unlike me, have the expertise to answer. Rather than burning or burying this unrecycled plastic, is there a way to melt it down, mold it into bars, and store it safely until processes are developed to either reuse or eliminate it? I'm not, btw, saying that we should keep manufacturing the stuff -- much less buying it -- but can we store what already exists for later?

  184. @Stevem; not an entirely clear answer, but unless this activity would generate revenue larger than present practice, it isn’t going to happen. This does not rule out some possibility of future profit. For example, I knew of a guy who bought old (thick concrete) missile silos and accepted toxic metal waste until they were filled; he was creating a future mine. For now, the forced ‘single stream’ waste that replaced all the separation by us, makes doing anything with plastics vastly more difficult. In effect, we now dump everything in one bucket regardless of what you do at home.

  185. @Marat1784 However, we do store radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, and will have to do so for many thousands of years. No revenue is generated. How is that paid for?

  186. I live in an apartment complex with a designated garbage dumpster and 3 separate recycling bins for newspapers, plastic and glass and flat cardboard, etc. I repeat, THREE, designated recycling bins. The dumpster, at anytime, is full of designated recyclables. Some of the tenants just throw whatever they want in the dumpster. The three designated bins are chockabloc full of everything, regardless of material or what bin it belongs in. But, here is the straw that breaks the back, when the carting truck comes to,collect only the recyclables, they dump all three bins into the back of the truck mixing everything together !

  187. @John Taylor YES!!!!! When I lived in a small suburban town in PA. I had a recycle bin and a trash can. When they came to pick it up they always dumped both in the truck. I asked the driver whats going on??? He said it all gets sorted at the plant....really?

  188. Why can’t people like Bezos use their wealth to help solve the problem of waste disposal by seeding innovative entrepreneurs coming up with inventive ways to produce reusable packaging, instead of his usual vanity projects? Especially since he is creating so much of the problem. Thank god for the Washington Post, but someone, including the owner of Starbucks, and Facebook ceos, with so much money, are obligated to do more than amass fortunes.

  189. @mt The billionaires aren't going to save us. Expecting them to is a reflection of the mindset that allowed the climate crisis to happen in the first place.

  190. @mt Mr. Bezos' ex wife MacKenzie just received a $35+ billion divorce settlement which she wants to use for good works. THIS would be the perfect place to start. Help clean up the plastic mess upon which her good fortune is partially based. She sounds like a good person.

  191. Prefer to read an article and skip the video, I had no choice here. As long as lobbying money flows into politics, none of our problems will be solved by the federal government.

  192. We also need electric vehicles so the extra weight of non plastic packaging doesn’t use extra petroleum products, and renewable power to generate the extra electricity.

  193. The thing that most often bothers me is that all products should be recyclable by the manufacturer. So often, replaceable parts can only be discarded, never mind the products themselves. They should all be recyclable, from used shaver cleaner cartridges to shavers themselves, from broken humidifier bottles to humidifiers themselves, from those new lithium AAA and AA batteries to portable electronics, from discarded coffeemaker parts to coffeemakers themselves, and so on. No doubt, we would all have to pay more for them, but we must have government help as well to maintain a level economic playing field.

  194. Plastics are mostly made from petrochemicals. If they are NON biodegradable, they are a carbon sink. From a global warming standpoint, locking up carbon in plastic is prefered to burning it and releasing it into the atmosphere. Putting non biodegradable plastic into landfills (not oceans) does not harm the environment and petrochemicals are non-renewable. They get used up basically forever.

  195. @B "From a global warming standpoint, locking up carbon in plastic is prefered to burning it and releasing it into the atmosphere." Exactly. Plastic is a form of carbon sequestration. Burning waste for energy, including plastic, is a horrible way to deal with waste better buried. Unfortunate, but true.

  196. @B I do not see a problem with properly designed modern landfills. We recover and use significant volumes of methane from ours. Perhaps some future stage of industrial civilization will mine them for something they need the value of which we do not recognize. It is better than shipping waste across the world.

  197. @B Finally, the important comment. Thanks, B. By the way, similar issues with forests, wood products are almost universally misunderstood. I seem have trouble getting folks to understand how, exactly, forests do or do not sequester carbon.

  198. Many commenters here have noted that regulation and/or taxation of plastic is the only realistic way to solve this problem. But when local communities have attempted to ban plastic, the plastic industry swoops in with money and lawyers to thwart these efforts. So something needs to be done about that. The question is what.

  199. @Howard I really think we need a constitutional amendment clearly stating that corporations are not people, they don't have free speech rights, and their political activities should be severely limited. A plastics company should simply not be allowed to create a "nonprofit interest group" called People for Packaging Choices and pollute the discourse with their misleading propaganda. That would be a start.

  200. I see a lot of people coming away from this video thinking recycling is a scam, which is a risk of these types of pieces. The corrugated cardboard boxes they mention at the beginning? Highly recyclable. Aluminum, steel? 100 percent recyclable. No. 1 and 2 plastics? Very recyclable. We need to educate consumers on recycling right, and work with manufacturers and retailers to take responsibility for the end of life of their products.

  201. @AlanW Yes, cardboard is very recyclable. Big problem is that there is such a glut of it coming from homes and not businesses and home cardboard is often too contaminated to recycle (one reason China won't take our garbage). Consumers have been educated in proper recycling for decades and it hasn't seemed to help as it simply cannot compete with our culture of consume and throwaway. Just as with tobacco, opioids, and other addictions, manufacturers need to be held accountable for the damage they are doing to the planet and consumers need to be taxed for products that cannot be easily recycled.

  202. No, the point is it costs so much to recycle its simply not profitable to do do. China is rejecting our recyclables. Ships full of American “recyclables” are floating around South East Asia looking for someone to accept them. Also, keep in mind recycling plants rely on fossil fuels and put out polluting emissions. Reducing and re-using are a better strategy.

  203. @AlanW We don't need to "work with" manufacturers and retailers. We need our representatives to start representing us, force them to behave more responsibly, and punish them when they fail to do so. "Corporate responsibility" is an oxymoron and framing them as even capable of good-faith cooperation in the public interest is a step in the wrong direction.

  204. I try very hard to not use plastic in that hardly any of it is recycled. It is difficult, but, you can cut back dramatically. It is simple in some ways. I have not bought a soda from a plastic bottle or water from a plastic bottle for some time. When you are at the store there are many things not in plastic. It can be done.

  205. This type of analysis could be extended to all products (and services) in regards to "life cycle assessment", "product life cycle", "supply chain analysis" or what is commonly referred to as "environmental footprint". We often want to isolate our consumption to a small sliver of the actual life cycle of any particular product, ignoring the larger picture. There needs to be more available analysis around what we consume and how we consume it--so as this video suggests --we can be more cognizant of these facts and push the market in the right directions.

  206. Yes, and they should not be using the prefix "bio" for things that are not natural or compostable. It is very misleading. For example: "Biodegradable plastics are made from the same materials as conventional petroleum based plastics, but with even more chemicals. These extra chemicals cause the plastic to break down more rapidly when exposed to air and light. Some biodegradable plastics fragment rather than biodegrade, due to the addition of oxidizing agents (found in “oxo-degradable plastics”). By fragmenting, rather than degrading, they break into small pieces which can pollute soils, increase risk of ingestion for animals and end up in our oceans and waterways. These kind of plastics are impossible to recover for recycling and aren’t suitable for composting. The prefix “bio” can be very misleading: plastics do degrade, but not into something biological. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. The micro plastics that end up in our water, air and food supply. " from ...we can’t recycle or compost our way out of the plastics issue – and that holds true for new biodegradable plastics and bioplastics. We can make informed decisions and stop waste by buying less, and buying responsibly. We also need to demand more from the key corporations, as they seem to be responding to social needs better than this government.

  207. In case nobody has noticed there's now an entire industry dedicated to destroying the same cartons we can't even recycle. Go to any hardware store these days and you can purchase any number of heavy duty scissors and heavy duty blades and such made for such tasks. Between carton destruction devices and now the ultra dizzying array of flashlights available we can all see the cartons we demand be destroyed and disposed of.

  208. In our house, we recycle paper, compost our food waste, and try not to buy plastic. But any food shopping trip involves far more plastic than the simple shopping bag (which can be reused for garbage -- is it really better to BUY plastic garbage bags?). We rarely order out, since at least half of take-out consists of plastic. What upsets me is how much fresh food is encased in plastic. It's difficult to buy any but the simplest head of lettuce that is not in a plastic box. Berries always come in plastic boxes. Meat, especially organic meat bought in a supermarket, is encased in plastic. How do we reconcile eating healthy/organic (which is also good for the people who pick those berries) with the plastic waste? Plastic water bottles are such an easy target -- I do carry a refillable bottle -- but they are just one part of a huge problem.

  209. @KB in NYC I love berries but I agree about the packaging. If I were boss of the world I would expand Michigan’s super awesome bottle bill to include ALL packaging.

  210. @KB in NYC farmers markets don't have food for sale wrapped up in plastic

  211. I’m old enough to remember returning pop bottles to the grocery store. Then they’d be sent to the bottling plants to be cleaned and refilled. When coke and Pepsi et al. went to selling pop in cans and plastic bottles, the responsibility for the waste was dumped on municipalities. Every time I buy groceries I’m dismayed by the amount of plastic waste I bring home.

  212. We need new laws about waste. The recent article about toxic electronic waste being shipped overseas for "recycling" was extremely disturbing. We need to handle all of our waste domestically. As discussed in this article we need a revamping of recycling classifications.

  213. The post WWII economic model that prizes relentless growth and sales, instead of sustainability, is part of the bigger problem. Marketing and product design that intentionally make things obsolete soon after they are sold are a big part of this complex situation. I think there's as much a problem with the stuff people buy and use for a year or two and then discard or upgrade -- cheap molded plastic things, low quality clothes, even kitchen appliances that have a key plastic component that breaks (so door no longer latches, even though the unit works fine) -- a toaster used to last 30 years, now something on the toaster oven breaks after a short time. And then there are the phones , arg. We have been forced to "upgrade" in shorter and shorter cycle.

  214. @Becca To add to this, we do tend toward a discard culture, in part because our appliances. decorative items, and clothing are relatively cheap. Something breaks, and we buy new rather than fix it. The labor to repair an appliance can rival the cost of replacement. You then choose to replace, figuring that the item is old and will break again -- the "good money after bad" theory. We just had a hanging light fixture repaired. We could have bought two replacements at Home Depot for the money we paid to have it fixed. But in the end, we didn't see anything we liked as much, and the fixture we had was much better quality. But you could easily have made a good argument to ditch the old one and save a bit. It comes down to what we value. Maybe we need a cultural shift.

  215. I'm surprised we need to have a conversation about various plastic types at this point. I learned all this in the water bottle frenzy of the 2010s. Which plastics contain BPA? If you know what the numbers mean, you'll know which plastics are which. I was selling water bottles as a summer job at the time. This was need to know information. I ended up educating hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers over the course of one summer. Basically, you should avoid anything but numbers 1, 2, and 5 unless you work in construction. Number 1 is polyester which is both your disposable water bottle and most of your gym shirt. Patagonia uses a lot of polyester synthetics because the material is easily recyclable. You can even mail them your jacket. They'll recycle it for you. They also source recycled polyester beads that are woven into new garments. Number 2 is High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). This is your laundry detergent but also the old school Nalgene bottles. This is probably the most responsible/safe plastic available for food containers. Number 3 is PVC. Hence, construction. Number 5 is polypropylene. While not commonly recyclable, this is a useful and long-lasting plastic when used responsibly. Car parts, yes. Disposable diapers, no. New school Nalgene bottles also use this material. You really shouldn't touch anything else. We should also have a talk about the energy needed to recycle even recyclable plastics but that's a conversation for another time.

  216. @Andy Thanks for this thoughtful reply as opposed to some of the others who excuse themselves for not even making an effort because "it is all a big scam anyway" - which is only partly true. And will only change as people force a different consumables dynamic, including separating what can be recycled into separate containers.

  217. @Andy Useful post. My question is why we even allow companies to use whatever materials they want for whatever purposes they want. I gather if a material is judged "safe," it's left up to individual companies/industries to use as they see fit. What I don't understand is why we can't approve these dangerous and often-unnecessary materials for specific purposes, based on true costs and benefits. Perhaps there's a non-recyclable plastic that, for whatever reason, is the only thing that will work for a lifesaving medical device. Fine. Buy I feel like the same material shouldn't be used for packaging when another will work just as well, even if option #2 is more costly. Companies should never be trusted to do the right thing for the right reasons. With the exception of a few that are privately-held or certified B Corps, they're literally legally obligated to be sociopaths and because of how the people running them are compensated, most prioritize short-term gains even when it's not in their long-term interests.

  218. @Shirley0401 Good question. The answer is because we mostly don't know. We can't really tell which plastics will be useful for which applications. Who knew Velcro would be such a hit? They weren't designing Velcro for reusable baby diapers. Wouldn't you know? Velcro is a lot more convenient than a safety pin. Hence, more parents will choose to use reusable diapers. We also don't know the harm associated with various new plastics until they are commercialized. Waste is obviously one gigantic universal harm. That's actually why I brought up Patagonia. They're corporate philosophy doesn't say plastics are intrinsically bad. Patagonia is saying the life time of the product matters. If you buy a plastic fleece that will last 10 or 20 years, maybe that's okay. Your packaging at the super market should be strictly reusable or renewable.

  219. Single use plastic for food packaging is the main component of all unrecycled plastics. Our food stores sell millions of pounds of meat, fruit and vegetables, most in plastic containers, that are stamped with the recycling triangle. They are made from plastics groups 3-7, and are not recycled. Styrofoam is not recycled. Paper containers with plastic liners are not recycled. Plastic wrap isn’t stamped with a recycling triangle, that is never recycled. Kathleen Smith is right. Recycling plastic is a scam. A huge scam

  220. America's epitaph: Americans polluted the Earth with their refuse, especially plastic; they eschewed regulation, because those in power believed individuals should be free to do whatever they wanted; and few were seldom able to force companies to change, because of lawyers making it so difficult, expensive, and time-consuming that most of the plaintiffs either gave up or died before anything was finally decided. The lawyers helped run out the clock, but in doing so, they didn't realize they had been losing the game all along.

  221. The only thing that is actively recycled are metals as they actually have value. It is cheaper to produce more new plastic than to recycle it. Recycling plastic is an extremely toxic and polluting process. In the meantime I’ll continue to put everything in the same garbage bag for now. Nothing is really recycled in New York anyways.

  222. That’s obvious to me when I see the garbage men throw all of the bags, regular trash and recycling bags, in the same truck and then pull the compression lever. It’s a total scam.

  223. I noticed in the EU highly recyclable paper bowls and other containers are being used in fast food point of sale stores. Moving to that here would make sense to reduce plastic. These containers are not long term durable and are even attractive resembling fine textured cork. A NYT article (in print please) looking at solutions would be helpful.

  224. @poslug unfortunately, most are laminated, and then with the food, not recyclable.

  225. @Jocir Not sure if it's the same thing, but there's a restaurant in my neighborhood that doesn't even recycle because literally everything you get when you purchase food there is industrially compostable. It's not a perfect solution -- there's no curbside pickup for the packaging and a backyard compost bin won't get the job done -- but it's a step in the right direction.

  226. @Shirley0401 Many, many cities have curbside pickup for materials that will then be industrially composted. We put our compostable materials into a large green bin with our yard and garden waste. It has reduced our garbage output by roughly 75%. It is not an additional cost--paid for by our general garbage fees. You should lobby your local government to institute such a program.

  227. How much of our lives are scams? How much of what we are told to get us to stand down and accept this that or the other thing are simply lies meant to control our behavior in spite of our misgivings? The giant pile-up of plastic waste on this planet is just one example.

  228. @TDHawkes 85% of the US economy is some kind of scam or racket. We are all contaminated.

  229. @TDHawkes See the recent release of papers on the war in Afghanistan for starters.

  230. The package industry was able to sell the narrative that personal responsibility was the answer to the excesses of consumerism when the crying Indian in the early 1970's shamed us all into believing it was only us, the consumer (the customer), that can keep the planet clean. It was an ad financed by the package industry to justify single serving disposable containers so they could establish an endless cash stream. Recycling mythology is the continuation of this narrative of personal responsibility as the source of the problem and the solution. This is a deliberate obfuscation of the corporate responsibility as the primary source of waste and garbage in society. It will only be when major corporations stop pushing the personal responsibility/recycle narrative (and use corporate responsibility/green alternatives as their primary marketing ploy) that the vicissitudes of consumer waste will be actually be addressed. Corporations that embrace this will be the leaders of tomorrow. Green alternatives means green money for corporations in the long run. How bad will it get before this necessary transition in mindset takes place is debatable.

  231. @Gowan McAvity OR we could just have sensible laws, actually enforce them, and make penalties severe enough that it actually affects the bottom line when corps don't comply. I still don't understand why companies that re-offend when it comes to matters like wage theft or waste disposal don't simply have their charters revoked. Expecting an entity that is legally required to be a sociopath to "do the right thing" is idiotic.

  232. @Shirley0401 It will be when it becomes apparent to corporations that it is in their interest, that it will be more profitable, to use sustainable practices, when things will actually change. Disaster and liability will be prime motivators making the costs rise. Laws and regulations (fines, incarceration) are part of the profit equation and granted, to believe corporations will do the right thing solely for moral reasons, rather than as a response to the profit motive or law, is idiotic. But legislation own its own will not answer. Attitudes, motivated by profit, need to shift toward the green, not just the law.

  233. Can we do something about the mountains of cannabis-related plastic used in "secure" packaging? How any state was able to go legal without addressing packaging shows once again how greedy we are across both sides of the aisle when it comes to new revenue sources.

  234. It is not them, it is US. But us includes our elected officials who in many areas do little or nothing to facilitate recycling.

  235. Oil, and it's myriad applications and derivatives, may just be the single largest threat to life on our planet. Perhaps we need to keep it in the ground, and find alternatives or rethink how we live.

  236. I am cruising on my sailboat now. Yesterday I rowed ashore and walked to a grocery store and purchased enough to fill my backpack. When I got back to my dinghy I decided to unpack and discard the unnecessary packaging in the nearby trash can. My full backpack was now half empty. Everything was still in its bottle, container or final layer of wrap.

  237. Landfills are a perfectly fine way to sequester plastic into eternity. Probably the 'guilt' over throwing plastic into the regular garbage has contributed to the amount of plastic that ends up as litter and in the ocean. If we really want to recycle, we should invest in the machinery necessary to automatically sort recyclable materials from non-recyclable and just go on a big push to get people to put things in the trash instead of littering. This isn't just industry's fault - it's the fault of overzealous environmentalists who want to guilt us into doing a huge amount of unnecessary extra work in our households. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for paper packaging, but I've seen the 'scam' of recycling since it was first mandated in the 80's.

  238. @Jack The machinery to do what you propose literally does not exist.

  239. There are some people in my building who think that anything they put into the recycle bin will get recycled. That's how some people think. Used cigarettes? Dirty diapers? Sure, why not? Put it all into the magic bin. It's a bit similar to food service workers who think that because they are wearing latex gloves, then everything they touch will not be contaminated. It doesn't matter if they went around touching a hundred other things first. I'm wearing magic gloves, right? People are impulsive and will find a way to avoid any socially conscience dissidence, or having to take that extra step. It takes knowledge and a desire to incorporate that knowledge into your life to change our consumer habits. I used to love glitter. Now I avoid it. There room size xmas trees being sold covered in it. We are supposed to be getting better, but every day, it just seems like 2 steps backward.

  240. Consumer goods are just the tip of the iceberg. Plastic stretch wrap envelops virtually every pallet of cargo. It is not re-used or recycled. It's a one time use item that is essentially made to be garbage. The main problem is that very little of what we trade is priced at its true cost. Nobody does the math to figure out how the waste if wreaking havoc and what that is worth.

  241. @upstate guy "The main problem is that very little of what we trade is priced at its true cost". So true. And the resulting corollary is that very little of what we BUY is priced at its true cost.

  242. I recall spending time in a very poor third world country in college and the soda bottles were glass, one paid a deposit the equivalent of 10 or 15 percent of the cost and got a credit when the bottle was returned. The bottles were used many times and showed wear and tear from cleaning and shipments but the products continued to sell. Ditto for milk bottles once delivered to front porches. When I visited that country recently, plastic bottles littered many streets. Why not got back to the time when we packaged some things in reusable containers? It would be better than pretending to recycle. And, where I live we pay about $5 a week for to recycle, it’s added to my county tax bill.

  243. @Observer As far as I can tell, both major US political parties see regulation and "interference in markets" as a last resort, despite centuries of evidence that we can't trust markets to even remotely approximate pricing costs and benefits correctly, especially when the benefits are immediate costs won't be paid until sometime in the future. Much like people still worry a progressive is "unelectable" because McGovern got whupped a half-century ago, a lot of Dems are convinced Carter lost in 1980 because he told us to wear sweaters inside. Instead of asking citizens to pitch in for the common good, we're treated as consumers first (and citizens a distant second, if at all), and it's assumed you care more about paying as little as possible for your soda than there being a habitable planet for your grandchildren.

  244. @Observer----I am old enough to remember reusable glass bottling in the U.S--as late as the 70s. It was a great system--worked efficiently: use the bottle, then turn it in for a refund. I was tauting the virtues of this REAL RECYCLING SYSTEM online. People retorted that it wouldn't be practical anymore because: 1) Now people drink bottled water. 2) Now, consumers run around with a plastic bottle of their favorite beverage at all times. First, bottled water: We DID have bottled water--in 5 gallon bottle water coolers. And fountains everywhere. (I know: Flint). Next, plastic beverage bottles: Consumers have been trained by the plastics industry to drink beverages at any moment in time and in any location. This has created an entire culture of yoga mom's carrying water bottles everywhere. THE PROBLEM IS (surprise!) THE PLASTICS INDUSTRY. They LIKE this new on-the-go-drinking culture and this "don't drink the water" culture. Plastics does not care a whit for the environment. They're financially invested in this culture. And the entire bottling industry does not want to have to re-tool their factories for glass & REAL RECYCLING. Also, now that the consumers have been trained, they are unlikely to give up CONVENIENCE, the driving force behind so many of our purchases--such as online buying & delivery w/its millions of pounds of packaging . . . Don't get me started. . . . Plastic bottling industry & online buying--CONVENIENCE DRIVES WASTE & ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION.

  245. Manufacturers must be charged the cost of recycling their products. Only then will they consider recycling in product design. "The Market" might work for good for a change.

  246. Just yesterday I was recalling that when I was a kid all our condiment bottles were in glass. Sure it took some time for the ketchup to slide down but wasn’t that part of the “anticipation” and excitement? Curious to know the stats of glass recycling.

  247. @Amelia From what I have read, glass is not worth recycling in most markets, since the raw material (quartz sand) is cheap and plentiful. Re-using glass containers might be an option, but that entails more energy and water for washing and transport.

  248. For decades I've been trying to tell people about how "recycling" really works. First off it's scrap and it's all market related, no market no recycling is done period. Now that China has left the market most of our recyclables except for metal gets thrown away after all of that handling.

  249. @joe Hall I think glass is still pretty regularly recycled, too. Single stream recycling is the biggest con of them all. Everything gets contaminated!

  250. So, why do corporations use types of materials that cannot be recycled? Is there a benefit (I would guess it’s financial) to them? Can laws be enacted making types (if not all, maybe some?) of non-recyclable materials illegal as long as there is a comparable recyclable material that could be used? Has this been tried anywhere?

  251. The messaging in this video is confusing. It states that objects marked recyclable--especially #s 3-7--dropped into recycling bins rarely get recycled, but doesn't say why. It says that a large percentage of stamped recyclable products don't get recycled, but doesn't differentiate between those that are put into a recycling bin in attempt to being recycled and those that go directly into the trash. Finally, after telling us all of the above and that corporations should be selling us less plastic (agreed), we should nonetheless continue to recycle.

  252. It's not them, it's us. Who the heck is so lazy that they cannot make fresh coffee from grounds (which comes in a single container, or a paper coffee bag) instead of using individually packaged Keurig or Nespresso packets - which, to add insult to injury, also come in boxes! Not only do these individual packets and their boxes produce waste in orders-of-magnitude greater quantities, they cost far more per serving as well! And who really needs an Amazon package overnight or in two days? Most items would be fine to arrive in a week. What if prime had an option to gang up orders made during the week and wherever possible ship them together once a week or once every 10 days to save on shipping material unless something it truly needed urgently.

  253. @Common Sense : We are our own worst enemies. Like shopping at Walmart to save money, when we know that those (mostly plastic) products were manufactured cheaply, in China.

  254. That was poorly written editorial. It sounds like the real culprits are generally not the companies, but rather the municipalities that are choosing not to recycle things they can. But I can't tell, because they didn't bother to say what percentage of stuff marked as recyclable isn't, of what percentage of recyclable stuff that is put in recycling containers isn't actually recycled. Nor did they tell us important information needed to make sensible policy, such as how much it costs to recycle the various classes.

  255. @Ernie Cohen She said only 8% of all plastics are recycled.

  256. I have read numerous articles about other countries utilizing waste plastic for paving roads. After all, plastic is oil based, just like asphalt. The roads are said to hold up better than traditional asphalt roads, but do require an additive to make them less slick when wet. They hold up better because they rebound from heavy vehicles where traditional roads just sink in. Also, potholes can be repaired any time of the year by adding plastic based paving materials. Traditional roads must be repaired in warmer weather and require the pothole be enlarged down to the road foundation. I contacted my state representative to see if my state DOT was aware of this. He claimed that his office would inquire and I never heard another word.

  257. I'd like to see the world's billionaires get busy cleaning plastic out of the oceans, especially. That would be a worthwhile use of their money, more so than running for office or going into space. And a lot of them couldn't have made their billions without plastic, either because their product is made from it or encased in it. Maybe we need a plastic tax along with a carbon tax.

  258. @Citizen-of-the-World A lot of them wouldn't have billions if lazy consumers would engage their brains and stop buying all the products produced by these corporations, most of which is associated with unhealthy food and conspicuous consumption.

  259. Unfortunately this affects more than just those “lazy consumers.” It affects sea- and land- dwelling life (including humans) which played no part in those consumer decisions. Taxes are one approach to reducing these contaminants, helping fund cleanup efforts while encouraging use of less problematic packaging materials.

  260. The misinformation and the disinformation that the plastics industry will engage in in their pursuit of profit$ knows no limits. I live in a major metropolitan area with a long neglected river. It used to flood in centuries past, causing widespread loss of life and property damage, so eventually the Army Corp of Engineers cemented much of it. There's a local non-profit that has taken the lead in promoting the restoration of the river and in protecting it legally. 2 or 3 times a year they organize river cleanups and I go faithfully to spend the morning pulling plastic out of the river. Plastic buried in the silt, plastic wrapped around the trees and plants, plastic floating on the water. Basically, plastic everywhere. So, this NGO, gives out t-shirts every year with a cool graphic on the front celebrating another yearly clean-up. On the back they list their sponsors. Guess who sponsors the events to pull all that plastic out of the river? That's right, the very same companies that made all that discarded plastic and sold it with abandon in the first place. Coca Cola, Dart Containers, American Chemistry Council. The NGO says that doing good things with bad money is OK. I say that these companies are trying to wash their hands with blood money. The great deception goes on....

  261. @Balogún This wasn't part of your point but I had to laugh ruefully at your line about the T-shirts. Between myself and my grade-schooler, we have accumulated dozens upon dozens of T-shirts from community events/groups. I don't need or want them, but they're shoved in our hands anyway. And how many resources go into making a shirt that will be worn for a few hours and then stuffed in the back of a drawer (or worse, thrown right in the trash)? But they're considered important, for "branding." If you don't have a garish, poorly fitting T-shirt, did you even go to the river clean-up?

  262. @Jenny I love this comment! My shirt drawer and my kids' drawers are filled with the same t-shirts. I wear the ones that don't have the names of bad actors on them to support the NGOs/causes I care about and to raise awareness. Still, to your point, what minuscule percentage of those shirts ever get worn? It's just more needless stuff. Endless production and endless consumption. Where will it ever end?! :(

  263. Corporations exist for one reason - to make money by any means possible. We are the lemmings who have become addicted to convenience and waste. And handily enough - we've also bought into the carefully crafted narrative that activism is bad. It's time to take an active role in our future.

  264. Missed a great opportunity to encourage consumers to think about the packaging their purchase is in - soda tastes the same from an aluminum can as it does from a plastic bottle, and aluminum is far more recyclable.

  265. @Mike Unger really, there's no reason beverages should be available in plastic containers. either aluminum cans, paper cartons, or glass bottles would suffice for any beverage i can think of. when i was very young soda came in 12oz cans or 16oz glass bottles and there is no reason we should not at least go back to that.

  266. Our area will no longer pick up glass. They said it breaks too often in mixed recycling. Well, I’m willing to go back to separating the recyclables!

  267. The recycling myth is part of an uber-mythology that tells us we can live luxurious lives without destroying the biosphere. Other myths include sustainability, resiliency, and "technology will fix things, don't worry." We built our entire civilization and cultures on plundering the biosphere, generating pollution, more humans, and enslaving and killing hundreds of billions of animals. It's time to challenge all the mythologies that enable our addiction to what's causing anthropogenic mass extinction.

  268. @Steve Davies : This article is challenging that myth, although not saying it quite like you did. We need a low-impact, decent quality lifestyle, but to develop it we will have to knock some wealthy people off their high horses. That's fine with me, but I suspect that they will fight tooth and nail for the right to stay rich by giving us no reasonable alternative.

  269. @Steve Davies There are greater forces at work here than the enabling of mass extinction by specious human mythologies. As if humans are the source of everything. Malthus had it right. The "anthropogenic mass extinction" is the end result of a species eating there way through an environment. There will be an eventual mass die off of any over-extended population in a finite habitat. It has happened again and again on Earth, even on a planetary scale. Before there was an oxygen rich atmosphere anaerobic creatures flourished and "ruled" the world. Unfortunately for them their waste products included vast amounts of oxygen that changed the atmosphere so much it killed most them off, enabling the earth to be eventually hospitable to humans. Perhaps, the inexplicable drop in human fertility rates of "advanced" economies is signaling the natural environmental response to species overpopulation. What people argue over and mythologize now will probably be laughed over later by the few humans left around to laugh about it. The fact is humanity is just along for the ride and will mostly (and horribly) affect the Earth and its other inhabitants for a short time, geologically and biologically speaking.

  270. @Gowan McAvity: There's still a slim hope. We can become conscious as a species in the same way we can be come conscious as individuals. We are showing signs of it happening as we speak, as evidenced by discussions such as this. A conscious species would mitigate its numbers and lifestyle, just as some individuals are doing now. It would control its leadership and the billionaires who make their billions by ignoring or exacerbating the current problems. It would replace them with leaders who acknowledge the problems and work with everyone else to fix them. We aren't there yet, by a long shot, but we're talking about it. That's how it starts. We'd better hurry though; the point of no return is close, if not here already.

  271. This piece seems to be conflating two issues. First, whether producers are stamping the recycling symbol on products that aren't likely to be recycled, either because many recycling programs don't accept them or because consumers choose to throw them in the trash. Second, whether products are not actually getting recycled even though consumers follow their local rules correctly. If I want to know whether my waste is getting recycled when I follow my local rules correctly, then I need information that disentangles these two issues.

  272. The symbols on plastic packaging are not recycling codes. They are “resin identification codes”, managed by ASTM. The chasing arrows logo was changed to a solid triangle. The fact that some producers still use the wrong symbol causes confusion for consumers.

  273. This is a huge issue because several generations of Americans have been fooled into thinking that "recycling" is something that helps fight "climate change." In was never a true statement. In fact, many leaders of the environmental movement keep talking about "recycling" as though it is real and fights our climate crisis. In the meantime, real measures to fight planetary warming are being ignored. Here in Montana, plastic particulates are being measured in our pristene river waters. (Plastic clothing has finally won the war against clean water.) This nightmare will only be stopped through federal laws and enforcement by a real Environmental Protection Agency, not the fake corrupt thing run by the Trump Machine.

  274. @Barbara I agree that only federal regulations will ultimately force corporations to find workable substitutes for plastic. It will take a braver government than we've had for a long time, but voters can elect that government if they are motivated. That's where recycling has been valuable. It has caused generations to be invested in the issues of waste and planetary destruction, and their resulting self-image as environmentally committed can carry over at crunch time--e.g., the ballot box and consequent regulations that might cost money or limit convenience.

  275. Actually most people do not know the first 2 parts of the mantra "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle." Recycling is the last part. One should start buying less first, then re-use what you have (or buy 2nd hand, borrow, etc) and THEN recycle.

  276. We are drowning in plastic. What we're doing is clearly not sustainable -- we must start thinking circular. New materials innovation is desperately needed -- particularly bioplastics that can be safely returned to the earth in municipal composting sites. Of course this would require cooperation between corporations and government, and a shift in priorities towards the common good. Jeff Bezos thinks the best way to spend his 'Amazon winnings' is by investing in space travel. Space travel! Perhaps he's planning to leave once earth becomes uninhabitable.

  277. I think we do have go to space just because we're human.We have to explore. We have to see what's outside our cave. But, Mr. Bezos and other bazillionares have more than enough money to do both.

  278. @nicki " Space travel! Perhaps he's planning to leave once earth becomes uninhabitable." That's exactly what he's thinking. He probably believes the hype about colonizing Mars. Fat chance!

  279. @nicki Bezos can leave us all behind on a dying planet. He knows this. He can't acknowledge it because then he would need to change his company and that would entail a loss of profits. Profit before planet - motto of late stage capitalism.

  280. Nothing is going to change until we as individuals make lifestyle changes. Use re-useable canvas bags when shopping--don't rationalize that you can recycle the plastic bags. Store your food in re-usable glass containers, stop buying plastic wrap. There are now reusable cloth bags available for produce when grocery shopping, use these instead of the flimsy plastic bags offered in the stores. Use bar soap instead of bottled hand soap in your bathroom. There are multiple ways individuals can make a difference. Don't kid yourself into thinking that corporations and the government are going to help.

  281. @Jacqueline Gauvin Perhaps, but make sure you complete full-cycle evaluations. Re-usable canvas bags require more materials and energy to produce, and energy and water to wash. You do occasionally wash them, right? Glass containers, including reusable retail bottles, also cost more, are heavier (more energy), and also need washing. Many of these options might make sense, but make sure to consider the pluses and minuses on both sides.

  282. @Bob Krantz A canvas or cotton bag can be added to an existing load of laundry; most people do not have enough cotton bags to warrant a whole separate load of laundry. So they are probably neutral in terms of water use. Of course, growing cotton uses a lot of water. The best bags can be made from existing discarded items, such as old jeans or shirts. This is quite feasible, and if you can't or don't want to do it yourself, you can probably find similar items on Etsy or other online sites that sell handmade goods. Everything we have and use requires energy and resources. It would be better if consumers had more complete information about all the trade-offs.

  283. @Jacqueline Gauvin I think you've got it backwards. I agree big corporations aren't going to do the right thing, but trusting people to make these decisions multiple times a day, in the context of our stress-filled, increasingly precarious lives, is a recipe for failure. The only way we can stop the bleeding is to make companies behave, expect citizens to do their part, and penalize both when they fail to do so. We all created this problem together, and it's only gotten as bad as it's gotten because we've been trained to think of one another as consumers rather than citizens, of corporations as capable of having "values," and of markets as being capable of addressing societal problems.