The plastics industry must educate and advocate on recycling: Talking Points 

March 26, 2024
We can’t bury our heads in the sand and just hope the problem goes away. 

It is tiresome to keep reading about organizations bashing plastics and plastics recycling without recognizing efforts and investments that are being made for improvement while not offering reasonable alternatives. 

Note to industry bashers: Eliminating plastics and ending plastics recycling are not viable alternatives. 

The latest headline-grabbing report came from the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), described by the non-profit Capital Research Center’s Influence Watch project as a left-of-center environmentalist organization that advocates support of left-of-center policies aimed at addressing climate change.  

CCI’s main work since 2019 has been publishing research and reports it hopes municipalities use to sue oil companies. It expects money won by lawsuits will fund environmental projects. Its targets have included Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips, among others, for being responsible for climate change that has led to wildfires, heat waves and flooding.  

Blaming companies that produce or recycle plastics is new this year for CCI. 

You might argue that anytime the press writes about these organizations, it gives them visibility they do not deserve. I disagree because that is like burying our heads in the sand until the boogeyman goes away. Won’t work! 

The CCI report, titled “The Fraud of Plastics Recycling,” was released in February. It says the fossil fuel companies that lied about their oil and gas products causing climate change also have known and lied for decades that their plastics will never be recycled at scale. 

“Fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies have used the false promise of plastic recycling to exponentially increase virgin plastic production over the last six decades,” the report said. It accuses the industry of “creating and perpetuating the global plastic waste crisis and imposing significant costs on communities that are left to pay for the consequences. 

“Despite this knowledge, fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies — as well as their trade associations and front groups — have fraudulently marketed plastic recycling as a solution for decades in order to escape regulation and protect their profits,” according to CCI. 

In response, the American Chemistry Council said the report mischaracterizes the industry and the state of today’s recycling technologies, and undermines the essential benefits of plastics and the work underway to improve the way plastics are used and reused. 

Ross Eisenberg, president of America’s Plastic Makers, a division of the ACC, said, “Business as usual won’t fix the problem, but in the U.S., EU and around the world, investments in advanced recycling can be a game changer to better manage our vital resources.” He also said the solution requires innovation, investments and good policy. 

The ACC, as well as the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), said the report was flawed and cited decades-old technologies. 

Matt Seaholm, PLASTICS president and CEO, said the report “disregards the incredible investments in recycling technologies made by our industry. Unfortunately, they use outdated information and false claims to continue to mislead the public about recycling.”  

Organizations like CCI can issue reports of dubious quality and grab headlines. National organizations like PLASTICS and ACC will always respond to try to set the record straight. But that is not enough. 

The value of recycling needs to be preached at the lowest levels — township, county and city governments. Anywhere your company has a plant or warehouse needs to hear the value of investing in local recycling. National organizations cannot be everywhere. That is all our job.

Undecided on NPE? There is still time 

It is approximately six weeks until NPE2024 opens in Orlando and you still have time to book a flight, reserve a room through the NPE housing bureau and register on the website. 

There is a lot of excitement about NPE2024. The show scheduled for three years ago was canceled due to COVID-19, so you can expect to see six years of innovation in processing, recycling and mold-making technology. 

PLASTICS reports total registrations are pacing ahead of NPE2018 and registrations have already come from 99 countries. The conference program has been revamped and there is more emphasis on special technology zones. 

If you are still undecided about attending, visit and watch for our special April NPE issue to see what you might miss. There is still time. 

Ron Shinn, editor 

[email protected] 

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.