Greenpeace gives up on recycling plastic

Recycling almost everything is an uneconomic scam[i], but that hasn’t stopped many localities from enforcing recycling mandates, and employing lots of people to sort through garbage and spend large sums on trying to find another use for the materials. At great expense to taxpayers.

But finally, Greenpeace has realized that recycling plastic makes no sense. In City Journal, John Tierney writes:

Greenpeace has seen the light, or at least a glimmer of rationality. The group has issued a report accompanied by a press release headlined, “Plastic Recycling Is A Dead-End Street—Year After Year, Plastic Recycling Declines Even as Plastic Waste Increases.” The group’s overall policy remains delusional—the report proposes a far more harmful alternative to recycling—but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see environmentalists put aside their obsessions long enough to contemplate reality.

The Greenpeace report offers a wealth of statistics and an admirably succinct diagnosis: “Mechanical and chemical recycling of plastic waste has largely failed and will always fail because plastic waste is: (1) extremely difficult to collect, (2) virtually impossible to sort for recycling, (3) environmentally harmful to reprocess, (4) often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and (5) not economical to recycle.” Greenpeace could have added a sixth reason: forcing people to sort and rinse their plastic garbage is a waste of everyone’s time. But then, making life more pleasant for humans has never been high on the green agenda.

Greenpeace USA logo

As Tierney notes (and wrote about a quarter century ago), these problems long have been known. As I cope with the demands placed on my by Berkeley, I grumble that the wasted effort is a form of the medieval practice of corvee, forced uncompensated labor imposed on peasants to help build or maintain castle walls, roads, etc. And by being required to rinse all plastics, I am wasting water, which is a very precious commodity in California, and damn expensive, too.

But if you are expecting Greenpeace to apologize for campaigning for these useless and expensive requirements, fuggehdaboutdit.

Greenpeace is making no apologies for the long campaign to foist it on the public, and the group is unashamedly pushing a new strategy that’s even worse. It proposes finally to “end the age of plastic” by “phasing out single-use plastics” through a “Global Plastics Treaty.” This is a preposterous goal—imagine “phasing out” disposable syringes—and would be laughable except that environmentalists have already made some progress toward it. They’ve found yet another way to harm both the environment and humans….

Being green means never having to say you’re sorry.

[i] The notable exception is aluminum beer and soda cans.  Aluminum is priced by pounds, while steel is priced by tons.  Especially in states and localities that have a refundable deposit, the money really adds up, and the deposits even can make it pay to recycle glass bottles.


If you experience technical problems, please write to