Plastics recycling has gotten a lot of attention lately, with radio and TV coverage on the complications of recycling and "wishcycling" showing up in mainstream media.
Now add HBO.
On March 21, the premium cable channel's This Week Tonight with John Oliver took a deep dive into the problems and shortfalls of plastics recycling, with Oliver noting poor collection and reuse rates for materials that can be recycled — such as PET and high density polyethylene — as well as the complications of materials that can't be recycled, no matter how much consumers want to believe something like an umbrella can be recycled.
He doesn't uncover any new ground but does introduce the concept of extended producer responsibility to an audience who may have never heard of EPR before. And it's probably the biggest emphasis on the throwaway culture at HBO since Tony Soprano and his "family" were "in waste management."
You can see the 22-minute segment on YouTube even if you don't have HBO.
Despite problems with the recycling industry, however, Oliver stresses that it is important to stick with it.
"On a personal level I know this can feel demoralizing because it may seem that recycling is pointless, but it's important to know that it's not," he said. "We should absolutely keep recycling paper, cardboard and aluminum, and even recycling plastic — while it might be 90 percent more pointless than you assumed — can still have modest environmental benefits, but we should absolutely do it more mindfully. You should check with your local municipality to see what types of plastic they accept and then only recycle those, otherwise, you could be contaminating usable material."