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The Plastic Problem by Stevie Kim-Rubell, BTT Youth Ambassador: Part 2

We can all agree that one of the most negative consequences of the Plastic Crisis is its impact on our oceans, but how does it get there in the first place?  When we recycle items or put them in the trash, we assume that they makes it to a landfill or recycling center.  That’s where we’re wrong.  

We are all a part of the problem. 

In an amazing podcast I listened to by NPR, they talked about how the recycling system actually works.  It completely changed my life.  I was always the one to tell people about the importance of recycling, and I had no idea that I was doing more harm than help.  In the United States, our recycling system is completely broken.  Most of what we put in our recycling bins doesn’t actually get recycled.  Why?

In the 1990s, China was sending lots of goods to the U.S. on large cargo ships.  On the way back, it seemed silly not to fill the empty ships with something, so we started to send our recycling on the ships back to China.  They saw an opportunity to buy our recycling in order to use it to produce other goods, and for awhile we had a good thing going.  China would deliver goods on cargo ships, and then pay us to take our recycling back. But in 2018, something drastically changed.  

The Chinese manufacturers decided that it was too much work to use our recyclables.  Not because they were being lazy, but because we were doing a terrible job of recycling.  We left the caps on bottles and peanut butter in jars.  Ultimately, our failure to properly sort and rinse our recyclables resulted in this system falling apart all together.  Now, with no country to replace China in taking our recyclables, recycling plants in the United States are overwhelmed with high demand, so much of what we put in our recycling bins won’t ever getting recycled… 

 

Check back on Friday, June 12th, to finish Stevie’s article and to learn more about the United States’ recycling crisis, and how to mitigate the issue!