Despite efforts across the country to reduce the use of the material, the plastics industry is rapidly scaling up new production and promoting a familiar solution: recycling.
But it’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever actually been recycled — and as it turns out, the plastics industry isn’t surprised.
“Plastic Wars,” a joint investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR, reveals how plastic makers for decades have publicly promoted recycling, despite from almost the beginning privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable.
“There was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in a significant way,” Lewis Freeman, former VP of government affairs for the Society of the Plastics Industry, tells FRONTLINE and NPR.
That didn’t stop the industry from promoting recycling heavily, counting on a simple strategy: “If the public thinks the recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment,” says Larry Thomas, who formerly headed the SPI.
From FRONTLINE producer Rick Young, NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan, and their team, “Plastic Wars” is a powerful look at how the plastics industry has used recycling to help sell more plastic — and why the plastic waste problem has only grown.
Watch “Plastic Wars” above and read the story at FRONTLINE.
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