In the photo, the three-bag bin has labels for trash, glass/plastic recycling, and cardboard recycling — except that in this case, the recycling labels are mismatched based on whichever side you’re on to read them. It’s a stark example of why people have grown increasingly skeptical about recycling.
“Nice job, Pearson Airport,” the poster wrote sarcastically.
The commenters were upset, though not surprised.
“Having worked in the waste business for 23 years I can tell you that people don’t pay attention to the signs on recycling bins,” one person wrote. “They literally don’t give a s*** and will throw anything and everything in there no matter what. So, the signage is meaningless anyway.”
“My personal favourites [are] the multicompartment receptacles that have a slot for garbage and recycling. Take a peek inside and you’ll see there’s one bag. Super,” commented another.
Unfortunately, it’s a well-kept secret of the recycling industry: Most plastic does not get recycled. In fact, a report from Greenpeace found that the amount of plastic actually recycled is only about 5%. Why? Because sorting it is expensive.
And it’s a double-edged sword, as most plastic tends to become more toxic the more times it is melted and reused. Greenpeace went so far as to call recycling an entirely “failed concept” in a previous report.
Commenters agreed. “I’m fully convinced that plastic recycling is a scam,” one wrote, “invented to convince us that our society can somehow be both sustainable and increase consumption.”
The Plastic Pollution Coalition reported that recycling often gets shipped away – “but there is no ‘away,’” it wrote. Instead, the tons of plastic waste simply go elsewhere and pollute that ecosystem, harming humans and wildlife in the process.
One commenter had a simple outlook: “People are beasts,” they wrote.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps both individuals and businesses can take to combat the problem of plastic pollution. Companies can learn from initiatives like those mentioned in the TCD Guide, where reducing packaging waste, establishing better recycling policies, and donating or selling used goods become part of their sustainable practice.
For those who want to reduce their own role in plastic pollution, there are several options. Look for brands with plastic-free packaging, including the growing number of circular brands that reduce waste by incentivizing recycling and reuse.
Additionally, it’s easy to find plastic-free alternatives for a number of daily items, from water bottles to takeout containers to shampoo. It may feel small, but it’s one step closer to a less polluted planet.
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