Rethink Recycling

The Weekly thinks we should “rejoice and recycle” more plastics (Slant, 6/23). As a retired recycling professional in two pioneering nonprofits and a major California county, I differ for several reasons.

Nearly all plastic that is recycled is made into products that are not themselves recyclable. So much for the “infinite” arrow-triangles.

Plastic recycling is little more than a public relations scam by oil, chemical and bottling industries to avoid regulation that might make them manufacture reusable products or bear the costs of recycling their products and the environmental damage they cause.

Plastic can either be made from oil or from collected plastic, but when oil cost drops significantly, manufacturers and collection programs quickly cut back the kinds of plastic they accept. Unfortunately, the public is slower to adapt, so recycling bins get a lot of unacceptable plastic again, pushing contamination and costs up.

Someday, researchers and public programs may mass produce methods to break down plastic, but even then avoiding the plastic plague will probably be a better response. It isn’t hard. Look for alternatives, such as shampoo bars instead of bottled liquid. So for now, put more plastic types into the bin, just to slow landfilling Oregon’s canyons an iota, but don’t rejoice in pretending that clever PR campaigns mean environmental progress. They don’t.

Jack Taylor