100% Recyclable is a Fantasy

Day 209 – Unicorns, fairies and 100% recyclable can all be categorized as fantasy. Major companies are labeling their plastic bottles as 100% recyclable which then allows the consumer to drink without guilt, knowing once empty, their bottle will be successfully recycled.

Sadly, that is not the case. In an article in The Magazine of the Sierra Club, Edward Humes writes about, how big beverage companies are leading us to believe that we are being environmentally friendly be choosing their beverages packaged in “100% recyclable” plastic. The truth is they are more likely to end up in rivers, oceans, roadsides, landfills, and incinerators than inside any sort of recycled product.

“On June 16, 2021, federal lawsuits were filed by the Sierra Club and a group of California consumers against major bottled water manufacturers Coca-Cola, Niagara, and BlueTriton (a subsidiary of global giant Nestlé). The suits allege that these companies’ labeling and marketing claims about the full recyclability of their beverage bottles are not just a little off, but blatantly false and a violation of consumer and environmental protection laws. They accuse the three global beverage titans of unfair business practices, false advertising, consumer fraud, and violations of state environmental marketing claims laws and Federal Trade Commission regulations.” – Edward Humes

Here is the problem with the 100% recyclable claim:

  1. The US recycling system is currently unable to recycle even a quarter of those supposed 100% recyclable bottles.
  2. The US lacks the capacity to recycle more than 12% of the bottle caps.
  3. The portion that does get recycled is never “100% recyclable”—about 28% is lost to processing or contamination and ends up in landfills.  

The article goes on to say, “FTC Green Guide regulations state that a company can claim that a plastic bottle is recyclable only if recycling facilities for that type of plastic are available to at least 60 percent of the consumers or communities where the product is sold. Under 60 percent, and all recycling claims have to be qualified on the label—such as saying, for example, “This product is recyclable only in the few communities that have appropriate recycling facilities.”

So, a company claiming to have a 100% recyclable product, but is only recycling 25% of that product is lying to the public. These false claims also make it very difficult for the consumer to make good decisions when purchasing products.

The brands specifically called out in the suits for allegedly deceptive recycling labels include Dasani, Arrowhead, Poland Springs, Ozarka, and Deer Park (in both lawsuits), and Niagara, Costco Kirkland, Save Mart Sunny Select, and Save Mart Market Essentials.

The law suit hopes to stop the false claims of these bottled water companies. One can only hope that these manufacturers start to take responsibility for their products and begin to offer something that is more inline with a circular economy. We can not continue to dispose of billions and billions of plastic bottles every year, with the idea that they are being recycled. They are not! Until manufactures take responsibility, the consumer needs to make decisions that will benefit the planet. Less plastic bottles is the only answer.

Tomorrow, disposable cups can be a thing of the past.

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