sProblems are often ignored until the effects are clearly noticeable. A global problem we have always been aware of is plastic pollution. Nothing is done against them when plastic waste goes to the recycling bin, on the contrary. The investigative film “The Recycling Lie” by Tom Costello and Benedikt Wermter shows that plastic recycling is nothing more than an illusion behind a system of corruption.
In order to show this, the research team went down the path of garbage brokers, the global waste mafia, and the world’s largest plastic manufacturers. The film begins in Surabaya, Indonesia: Nina Arisandi kneels in a dense mangrove forest. The fifteen-year-old environmental activist is surrounded by mountains of plastic waste, and her gear is a pair of orange gloves and a white trash bag. Arisandi doesn’t have to look far to find the sender of the trash, as the names of Nestlé, Unilever and Procter & Gamble can be found on the packaging.
Arisandi gives TED Talks and raises awareness of fraud on social media. When it appears on television, it repeats a message: Companies must produce less plastic and take responsibility for the illegal disposal of waste and environmental pollution. Plastic companies are responding with elegant and expensive advertising campaigns and the magic word: the circular economy.
Only five percent of plastic waste is processed into new materials
Chemical engineer Jan Dale lives and works in California. She shook her head when she first heard the term circular economy. The former industry expert has advised companies such as Nike, Chevron and Mattel on sustainability issues. She says the circular economy is a huge farce, prompting the plastics industry and packaging makers to sell more plastic. Because plastic recycling is expensive. Reusable and recycled packaging costs more than new, clean packaging. So why should companies like Coca-Cola, Nestlé or Unilever go for a lower quality, more expensive product when they can get a cheaper product straight off the production line? This suits oil companies. The production of plastics is an important field of the petroleum and chemical industries. By 2050, 20 percent of all oil production will be used to make plastics, and if left unchecked, plastic pollution will quadruple during that time.
Video: ARD, Photo: WDR / Carsten Stormer / a & o buero
According to the film, only 5 percent of plastic waste is processed into a new material in sorting plants. And where does the rest of what we stuff in the yellow bag go? in Asia or at one of the 54 cement plants in Germany. Because plastic is ideal as a fuel, and nowadays cement plants are being paid for thermal recycling. By the way, it is worth noting that the cement industry emits three times more fuel gases worldwide than all air traffic.
The documentary is accompanied by an activist documenting illegal waste imports into Turkey. Those who try to uncover illegal trash deals receive death threats from the mafia. Politicians understand that the more money flows into the recycling industry, the more likely it is to attract criminals. While the production of single-use plastics is in full swing, the living documentation allows the tempting idea of recycling to emerge. It shows the seriousness of the situation.
Tonight at 10.50 p.m. on the first. Available in the ARD media library.