(NPR) — Recycling plastic doesn’t work.
The makers of plastic – the nation’s largest oil and gas companies – have known that all along, even as they spent millions telling Americans the opposite. @frontlinepbs.
An NPR and PBS Frontline investigation reveals how the oil and gas industry used the promise of recycling to sell more plastic, even when they knew it would never work on a large scale.
None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.
NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn't work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic.
The industry's awareness that recycling wouldn't keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program's earliest days, we found. “There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.
Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn't true.