The plastic packaging belongs to the yellow container. Wonderful: Close the lid, the conscience is gone. But what really happens to our plastic waste once we throw it in the recycling bin? The answer to this question is painful. By no means everything that can be recycled is actually recycled.
Instead, plastic waste is becoming a growing problem worldwide. This is what the ARD documentary “Die Recycling-Lüge” by Tom Costello and Benedict Werther deals with, which can be seen at the beginning. The documentary can be found in the ARD Media Library through July 2023.
Demonstration against plastic waste in Indonesia
Demonstration against plastic waste swaying on the beaches of Indonesia. The girl, Nina Arisande, is standing in the water among the roots of the mangroves: sacks of chips, crackers and biscuits around her. As an environmental activist, Nina fights trash and wants companies to be held accountable. “If this tree could speak, it would certainly cry,” she says. “At high tide, the litter on these beaches gets entangled in mangroves.”
The companies are Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Nestlé – these names are on the bags that float in water. Companies that convince consumers that plastic waste is recyclable, just as their promotional videos have promised.”
Seven percent of plastic waste is recycled
It’s Recyclable: But Is It Really Recycled? 30 years after the Green Dot and despite the German passion for waste separation, only seven percent is recycled because plastics can only be separated at great cost. Plastic waste is not a valuable raw material but it is still an expensive problem.
Projects such as the production of railway sleepers from plastic waste should be supported at a high cost. Despite all the promises, that won’t change, says recycling plant operator Sacha Schuh, “because they’re a mixture of plastic. You can’t, in brutal words, turn shit into gold. It just doesn’t work.” It’s the last piece of dirt sorted together somewhere.”
Thermal recycling: plastic is burned
Time and time again there are product labels with a footprint that are 100 percent recyclable from hip companies like TerraCycle in the USA, which promise a circular economy, where bags of voluntary foil are collected and which end up in the yard of a Bulgarian waste disposal company on the way to the Holocaust. Thermal recycling, that’s what disposal companies call it.
The solution to our waste problem is to avoid waste, says Helmut Maurer. He has been working in the Environment Department of the European Union Commission for the past 15 years. “It is clear to everyone that things cannot continue this way. If things do not continue this way, there is a need for political interventions, which may harm some. But we cannot endanger all humanity so as not to harm some.”
100% recyclable is not a lie, but a window decoration.