The Truth is Powerful

Recycling is an outdated solution — it’s time for a circular economy

© istock Plastic in America will continue invading our landfills, floating in our oceans, and contaminating our bodies as long as we are stuck in the 20th-century linear economic mindset of “take-make-waste.” What the 21st-century needs is an intersectional approach to the plastics crisis. In March, the Break Free from Plastic Act of 2021 (BFFPA) was reintroduced to Congress, targeting the chemicals and plastics industries for their role in pollution and landfilling. The bill argues for increasing recycling rates, shifting financial responsibility for recycling and waste management systems to upstream producers, and bans an expanded list of petroleum-based, single-use plastic products. This is a good starting point, but these are linear solutions that still result in wasted resources and only incremental improvements to the economic models that are fueling the climate crisis. If we are to successfully address climate change, the BFFPA must push for circular economy principles that design out the concepts of waste and pollution entirely and advance regenerative natural systems instead.

The BFFPA proposes to improve recycling rates and impose waste management fees to reduce plastic pollution. These solutions have a number of inherent issues. Currently, a mere 9 percent of plastics are recycled each year . […]

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