Plain and simple, packaging recycling programs do not work. The reason why is because there is no education system teaching about where the recycling goes. There is no education on the process. There is no education about why it is necessary. Some believe that global warming isn’t real. Some believe the opposite. There are always two sides of a debate. The reason why there is a debate is because the people on the opposing side of recycling believe that only one person who doesn’t recycle does not help the environment drastically or on the contrary one person recycling does not help much either so why bother. Right now, it is very important to make efficient recycling easily accessible. People who do recycle believe that they are helping with each piece they recycle, but in truth is it doing much? I am a realist. There are not enough recycling plants enough to make a difference. Even if everyone were to recycle the packages of every product they buy, it would not lead to a drastic change in society. The recycling plants cannot handle the influx. The ratio of people to plants is huge. That means most of the “recycled” packaging gets tossed in the trash as a result.
Another factor in the problem in the recycling industry is that the United States cannot handle the recyclable material as a whole. It is not just a state to statewide problem, so China used to buy millions of pounds of the United States recyclable plastics, but even China cannot handle it anymore, so they do not buy it. The United States is now stuck with all of our plastics with no way to recycle it therefore it goes into the landfill.
People still believe that even by putting a single plastic water bottle in the recycling bin on the Tuesday recycling pick up time is making a big difference. They believe that it will actually get recycled, but sometimes it doesn’t. What needs to be changed is the wasteful lifestyle that the majority of the US population lives. They use one-time use paper and plastic bags as well as one-time use packaging such as plastic cups and bottles frequently. This kind of lifestyle is what causes the most waste. The change needs to be implemented within the various companies that produce them not the consumer, although both would be ideal. If there could be an incentive for the companies to produce the biodegradable products, then there would be less of a need for recycling plants and a need for the consumer to be controlled. Researching for the biodegradable option is expensive. The initial push is the most expensive part, but afterward the results and benefits are endless. The biodegradable material or product could then be decomposed and put back into the earth. There would be less waste. There is no possible way to control the consumer. Even right now in COVID-19, people are not wearing masks even though it is a risk to their health. They are even protesting against it; this just goes the extent of the general public to always have their freedom to do what they please at all times even in times of crisis.
We must fight this problem in the recycling programs through the different organizations and companies that can be mandated and incentivized to become greener and use biodegradable substances therefore there would not be a massive influx of plastics that cannot be handled. This would allow the recycling program to do their part in preventing the remaining plastic packaging from going into the landfill and be reused.
Essay by: Megan Wong
Oklahoma State University