File this under "don't believe everything you read on social media," which I think is something most people should know by now.
I've had two people contact me in the past week to ask about a 1995 Plastics News story, "Clorox trims recycled resin in packaging." In both cases they had the same question: Was it real?
Both callers were interested in investing in recycling for one reason or another. In both cases, someone had shared that story with them as proof for why they should not.
I told them I wouldn't invest in plastics recycling either (just kidding), but that the story was, indeed, real.
But, and this is a big one, it was from 1995. The story was about how Clorox Co. and Procter & Gamble Co. planned to use less recycled plastic, blaming higher prices and declining quality of post-consumer material.
Those were valid reasons for questioning the future of plastics recycling in 1995. But not today. Thanks to variety of factors, including commitments from Clorox and P&G, plastics recycling is looking pretty good these days. The best I've seen in decades.
Thinking that this couldn't be a coincidence, I asked the second caller, "Did you find this on Google? Or are people sharing this article and telling people that it is current?"
You can probably guess the source of the misinformation: Facebook.
I was directed to a post on the Facebook page for Plastic Free Delaware, a nonprofit whose goal is "to eliminate the scourge of single-use plastics in Delaware through education, awareness building events and advocacy initiatives."
Its post included a photo of our story, with a caption: "In case you were looking for reasons to make your own household cleaning products, here's one more…"
I added a comment to their post pointing out that I was the editor of the newspaper they were linking to, that it was a 26-year-old story, and that the situation is much different today. In response, the group removed the post.
Score one for removing misinformation.
But for a lot of people, just seeing the Facebook post was enough to make them question the viability of plastics recycling. They won't notice that the post is now missing, and they didn't bother clicking through to read the story anyway. That's a problem with social media. If you think that plastic recycling is a myth and you see a post that reinforces that, you'll click "like" and move on.
And if your primary source of news and information is Facebook, then you will probably never see stories that would challenge your assumptions about recycling. (Obviously this applies to other issues, too.)
I like to think that our readers are better informed.
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.