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The US plastic recycling rate drops to close to 5% – report




WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) – The share of plastic waste recycling in the US fell to between 5% -6% in 2021 as some countries stopped accepting US waste exports and as plastic waste production rose to new heights, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report from the environmental groups Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics shows that the recycling rate has fallen from 8.7% in 201[ads1]8, the last time the Environmental Protection Agency published recycling figures.

The decline coincides with a sharp fall in exports of plastic waste, which had been regarded as recycled plastic. China and Turkey have since implemented plastic import bans, and other countries set limits for contamination of plastic waste under the Basel Convention’s plastic waste amendments, which the United States did not ratify in 2019.

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“The United States must take responsibility for managing its own plastic waste,” the report said, which used the 2018 EPA, 2021 exports and recent industry data to estimate the recycling rate in 2021.

The EPA did not release its updated annual recycling rate data last year. The last published data in 2020 showing 2018 rates.

The agency received funding from the two-tier infrastructure bill passed last year to support local waste management infrastructure and recycling programs.

“The EPA is aware of the report and will review the data,” an EPA spokesman said, adding that it will update its waste and recycling website “later this year.”

The recycling rate falls when plastic waste production increases in the US, the report states. Per capita, plastic waste went from 60 pounds per year in 1980 to 218 pounds in 2018 – a total increase of 263%.

The petrochemical and plastics industry has called for improved recycling across the country, but is facing pressure to curb production of new plastics.

Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an investigation into the role of fossil fuels and the petrochemical industry in “causing and exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis” and accused the industry of “perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastic crisis.” L2N2WQ2LY

“Recycling does not work, it will never work, and no amount of false advertising will change it,” said report author Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator.

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Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing Lincoln Feast

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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