Do plastic recycling methods work? New report offers different solution

Published July 21, 2021, 12:03 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Limiting the production of plastic and not mechanical or chemical recycling is the true solution to the swelling problem of plastic waste pollution in the environment, including the world’s oceans.

(Photo from EcoWaste Coalition)

This could be gleaned as the main takeaway from the new report titled “Plastic Waste Management Hazards: Waste-to-Energy, Chemical Recycling and Plastic Fuels,” which local environmental group EcoWaste Coalition highlighted on Wednesday, July 21.

The report “provides a detailed account of how current investments in recycling schemes, both mechanical and chemical, will have very little impact on a growing, worldwide plastic pollution problem and will increase exposure to toxic chemicals in the communities where they are located,” the group said.

As such, the coalition together with the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) have echoed the urgency of limiting the manufacture of plastic to essential uses and eliminating toxic chemicals in plastic production.

Carried out by Japan-based International Pellet Watch (IPW) and Sweden-based International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the report concluded that plastic waste management via chemical recycling, plastic-to-fuel, and incineration methods is generating high volumes of highly hazardous waste and toxic emissions.

Lee Bell, report co-author and IPEN Policy Advisor on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), said: “No current management method for plastic waste is capable of alleviating the world’s expanding plastic pollution crisis. All methods generate significant toxic hazards because of the toxic additives that are a component of most plastic products. Industry’s championing of various recycling schemes is a marketing ploy designed to fend off plastic regulation and efforts to curb an escalating plastic pollution problem.”

“The only solution to the plastic waste piling up in our communities and oceans is to limit plastic production to essential uses and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in plastics,” he emphasized.

EcoWaste Coalition, IDIS, and MEF are members of IPEN.


The same report says plastic production is expected to grow exponentially (from 335 million tons produced in 2016 to 1,800 million tons by 2050) as the petrochemical industry adapts to a carbon-constrained environment by shifting from fuels to the production of chemicals and plastics.

It added that approximately three-quarters of the 8,300 million tons of plastic produced since the 1950s has become waste, and that unless current practices change, 108 million tons of plastic waste will be landfilled, dumped, or openly burned in 2050, mainly in low-income countries.