We all agree we must solve the issue of plastic waste in the environment. According to a Harris poll from this spring, more than eight in 10 U.S. adults are concerned about the impact companies have on our global plastic waste issue. In response, many companies are stepping up and doing their part, as more than 400 companies worldwide have committed to work toward eliminating plastic packaging waste and major industry leaders like Coca-Cola and Unilever have promised to increase the amount of recycled content in their packaging to help reduce waste.
But there's a problem: We're not recycling enough plastic for companies to meet those commitments. For years, the United States has recycled only about 9 percent of the plastic that it produces, and that number has actually fallen to 8 percent, according to the most recent data from 2019. Why? Our recycling system isn't built to handle the amount of plastic we need to recycle and return to usable condition in order to achieve national and global sustainability targets while reducing waste. On top of that, according to The Recycling Partnership, 40 percent of Americans lack equitable access to recycling.
There's a clear solution. In order to create more sources of recycled plastic and keep more plastic out of landfills or the environment, we need a national recycling system designed to manufacture and use plastics while considering recycling every step of the way. The entire plastics value chain, including plastic resin manufacturers, converters and brand owners, consumers and most importantly governments must invest in a circular economy for plastics, including new recycling infrastructure and innovation.