The percentage of plastic trash recycling in the United States plummeted to between 5% and 6% in 2021 as some nations stopped accepting US rubbish exports and plastic waste creation reached new highs.
According to a research by environmental groups Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics, the recycling rate has decreased from 8.7% in 2018, the last time the EPA disclosed recycling numbers.
The reduction is accompanied by a substantial drop in plastic trash exports, which were previously classified as recycled plastic. Under the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments, which the United States did not ratify in 2019, China and Turkey have established plastic import restrictions, while other nations have set plastic waste contamination limitations.
“The United States must assume responsibility for managing its own plastic trash,” according to the research, which calculated the 2021 recycling rate using 2018 EPA, 2021 export, and recent industry statistics.
Last year, the EPA did not post its revised annual recycling rate statistics. Its most recent data, from 2018, was published in 2020. The agency did not respond to a request for comment right away.
According to the research, the recycling rate is declining as the amount of plastic garbage produced in the United States increases. Plastic garbage per capita increased by 263 percent from 60 pounds per year in 1980 to 218 pounds in 2018.
The petrochemical and plastics industries have been campaigning for more recycling across the country, but they are also under pressure to reduce virgin plastic output.
Last Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced an inquiry into the involvement of the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries in “creating and worsening the worldwide plastics pollution catastrophe,” accusing them of “perpetuating a lie that recycling can address the plastics crisis.”
“Recycling does not work, it never will work, and no amount of fraudulent advertising will change that,” said Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator who authored the research.