THROWAWAY SOCIETY: Economics & Inequity of Plastic Consumption – Plastic Plague Pt 4

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EcoJustice RadioTHROWAWAY SOCIETY – EcoJustice Radio investigates recycling economics & the inequity of plastic consumption once thrown away. Does plastic truly get recycled and what is the burden of other countries? This is PART FOUR of a special seven-part series, called, “The Plastic Plague: Connecting the Dots between Extraction, Inequity, and Pollution.” Check out Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 5Part 6Part 7

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Shibu Nair speaks on the struggle with the plastic plague in India.

Can We Stop Plastic Consumption? Do Recycling Economics Make Sense?

More than 300 million tons of new plastic is produced annually and less than 10% is recycled. 40% of the plastic produced is for packaging. China was the recycling destination for over 40% of the USA’s waste commodities. When they shuttered their doors to recycling imports, new opportunities popped up in other countries, but with it came the same issues of contamination, excess waste, and a dumping ground for the consequences of a “throwaway society.”

Our guests include Shibu Nair, India Coordinator for GAIA – Asia Pacific and Michael Doshi, Director of Partnerships for Algalita Marine Research & Education. Jessica Aldridge from Adventures in Waste hosts the discussion.

STORY: Reducing Single-Use Culture Through Legislation – National Zero Waste Conference

It feels good to recycle. It feels like we have done our part to make sure an item no longer of use may one day be used again. When we toss a plastic item into recycling it will make its way to a sorting facility where it is separated into categories based on value and then sold to market, domestically or oversees. But does it truly get recycled? What is the burden of other countries taking our waste?

Sadly, most plastic is not recycled. Not speaking about the bottles and yogurt cups, but the mass amount of various packaging that yields very little value. Currently, more than 300 million tons of new plastic is produced annually and less than 10% is recycled. 40% of the plastic produced is for packaging. In the United States, containers and packaging make up 30% of total waste generation (which includes everything is recycled, incinerated, or landfill).

STORY: Connecting Waste and Climate Change – National Zero Waste Conference

Michael Doshi, Algalita, plastic

Michael Doshi from Algalita, showing waste exported from the US to Indonesia to be “recycled.”

In February 2018, the Chinese National Sword came into effect and banned the import into China 24 types of waste material and set a hard to meet standard for contamination levels. The  restrictive contamination rate of 0.5% on most material is nearly impossible to meet when collecting and separating Municipal Solid Waste, even with the best technology.

The action rolled into a declaration called China Blue Skies 2050, which sets goals of reducing GHGs, cleaning up their recycling industry, and processing more of their domestic recyclables vs. importation of material. As a direct result, the global community lost their main export source for recyclables and waste diversion. Prior to the National Sword, China was the recycling destination for over 40% of the United States plastic, paper, and other commodities. Recycling  facilities and export opportunities opened up in other countries, but with it came the same issues of contamination, excess waste, and a dumping ground for the consequences of a “throwaway society.”

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Shibu Nair, Gaia, waste

Shibu Nair from GAIA.

Shibu K. Nair is an environmental activist from South India with 20 years of experience in environmental education, conservation, movements, policy and advocacy campaigns. He is a former Saathi Fellow of Association of India’s Development and Bay area chapter and Zero Waste Fellow of GAIA and Ecology Centre in Berkeley, CA.
http://www.no-burn.org

Michael Doshi is Algalita’s Director of Partnerships, spearheading strategic partnership collaborations, engaging like-minded organizations working on innovative solutions to participate in educating youth through Algalita’s leadership programs. Doshi travels the world conducting waste investigations to experience where our plastic ends up in the environment and how it impacts humans.
https://algalita.org/

Jessica Aldridge, co-host of EcoJustice Radio, is an environmental educator, community organizer, and waste industry leader. She is a co-founder of SoCal 350, organizer for ReusableLA, and founded Adventures in Waste. She has worked for 15 years as a Zero Waste professional, a former professor of Recycling and Resource Management at Santa Monica College, and is a recipient of the inaugural Waste Expo 40 Under 40 award.

Podcast Website: http://ecojusticeradio.org/
Podcast Blog: https://www.wilderutopia.com/category/ecojustice-radio/
Support the Podcast: https://socal350.org/contribute-to-socal-350-climate-action/

Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Producer: Georgia Tunioli
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 61

Photo Credit: Shibu Nair

Updated 3 March 2021

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt