I have a truth bomb for you and this one is going to hurt.... Your recyclable plastic isn’t all getting recycled.
For years and years, the US and many other western countries shipped their mixed plastics and paper to China to be recycled, but China officially cut us off in January 2018. We’re now left scrambling- diverting container shipments to India, Vietnam, and other countries in Southeast Asia for recycling. But these countries can’t come close to accommodating the enormous amount of plastic waste that the US produces. Now waste management programs across the US are left with a huge problem- there is no market for the mountains of plastic we’re producing. So it’s going to the landfill.
This is why I was less than amused when Starbucks announced that *over the next two years* they are phasing out plastic straws and replacing them with “recyclable” plastic lids. The lids are made from polypropylene, which falls under the mixed plastics category in the recycling world. A large majority of mixed plastics are going to the landfill or the incinerator, or ending up on my beautiful island in a million microplastic pieces.
What can we do? #GoTopless. Refuse the plastic lid, refuse the plastic straw, refuse the plastic cup. If there’s no demand, there’s no need to produce them. Last year, 5 Gyres Institute started the #topless4oceans campaign (watch the campaign video HERE) and I think it’s time we keep it up. If we’re going to make an impact, we can’t rely on recycling. We have to focus on the root of the problem, and that means we have to reduce plastic at the source.