The plastics industry knew RECYCLING WOULDN’T WORK, and now plastic waste is POISONING the planet
By Zoey Sky // Mar 05, 2024

The plastics industry has known for decades that recycling is not a viable long-term solution to the problem of plastic waste. Now, the planet is being poisoned by plastic pollution.

For decades, Americans were told that recycling old bottles and food containers could help save the environment from plastic waste. But regardless of the insistent claim that recycling is key to a greener planet, the data doesn't lie: Only a small fraction of plastics can be recycled.

Researchers have reported that between 1990 and 2015, at least 90 percent of all plastic used has either ended up in landfills, burned or were left to decompose and leak into the environment. Another study also estimates that only five to six percent of plastics are successfully recycled. Those numbers may seem surprising, but these sorts of statistics aren’t news to the companies that produce plastics.

According to a report from the Center for Climate Integrity, the plastics industry was aware that it was impractical to recycle them. They have been lying to the public for more than 30 years.

A trade association called the Vinyl Institute concluded in a 1986 report that "recycling cannot be considered a permanent solid waste solution" to plastics because it only prolongs the time until "an item is disposed of." (Related: After admitting FAILURE of 2014 plastic bag ban, California legislators now want to ban all kinds of plastic shopping bags by 2026.)

However, because they were facing public backlash over the growing amount of plastics being incinerated and filling up landfills, manufacturers and their lobbyists insisted that recycling was the quickest solution. They also used recycling to ward off legislation that could ban or limit plastics.

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It seems like Big Plastic is acting in its own interest just like Big Tobacco and Big Oil, which both withheld important information from the public for decades, also causing widespread and serious harm to human health and the planet, respectively.

Early in 2024, S&P Global revealed that the petrochemicals industry, which produces the suite of typical oil- and gas-derived compounds called plastics, along with pesticides and industrial chemicals, faces "uncertain prospects over the coming years."

The consultancy reported that, generally, global petrochemicals prices seem to have reached a peak in October and "are forecast to grind lower into early 2024 following energy and feedstock prices lower. S&P Global also forecasted a "supply-drive surplus" through 2026.

These factors could all make recycling even less practical than it already was, especially since recyclers already struggling to find buyers for the waste they collect must also now deal with a market where new plastics are more profitable than recycled ones.

ExxonMobil and Shell are among the biggest plastic producers in the U.S.

After the shale revolution prospered in the 2010s, companies raced to build petrochemical facilities in America to make use of abundant, cheap gas. Those facilities are often built in low-income communities of color, where residents suffer from increased cancer risks, respiratory diseases and birth defects.

Both the United States and China are producing a surplus of ethylene and other industrial chemicals that are used to make popular plastics such as polyethylene, to the point that new or "virgin" plastics are cheaper than recycled alternatives.

This means that while recyclers have a hard time offloading discarded plastics, companies that have flooded the market with fresh plastic are also struggling to make good on the major investments they’ve made to produce them.

ExxonMobil and Shell and some of the biggest plastics producers in the country.

In 2022, Shell opened a giant petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. On the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, Shell revealed that costs for the project had skyrocketed to a shocking 130 percent past the original estimates.

An investigation revealed that in the first year of the plant’s operations, its polyethylene units that convert ethylene into tiny plastic beads were shuttered as often as they were operational.

Early in February, Shell announced that it would be withdrawing from talks to build a new petrochemical plant in Basra, Iraq.

In 2015, Shell signed an outline deal worth $11 billion with Iraq to build the petrochemical complex that was slated to come online within six years and would make Iraq the largest petrochemical producer in the Middle East.

According to an Iraqi energy official with knowledge of the project talks, both financial and contractual issues delayed reaching a final deal with Shell and "caused the initial deal to collapse."

Shell also announced that it would cut down on "mega projects" like the Beaver County facility.

Oil and gas companies, including big state-owned firms like Saudi Aramco, have taken huge risks on petrochemicals. Industry trade associations, like the American Chemical Council and the Plastics Industry Association, have often tried to shoot down or weaken efforts to limit plastics usage and regulate toxins used in their production.

But the public mustn't fall for Big Plastic's lies again. After all, the plastics industry is directly responsible for the microplastics in food, tap water, oceans and even human bodies.

Visit for more stories about the adverse side effects of plastic waste and microplastics on the environment and human health.

Watch the video below to learn about California's plan to ban all plastic shopping bags.

This video is from the Loves Greatness channel on

More related stories:

Report reveals recycling plastic releases toxic “chemical cocktail” into the environment.

RECYCLE: What to do with expired items that are still good.

French startup opens world’s first solar panel recycling factory to address “waste mountain” expected by 2050.

Over 2,000 residents ordered to evacuate after fire erupts at Indiana plastic recycling plant and spews toxic chemicals into the air.

Sources include:

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