NAKHON PATHOM, THAILAND - AUGUST 4:  At the Indorama Ventures factory,, flattened plastic bottles move along on a conveyer belt through the factory for processing on August 4 ,2017 in Nakon Pathom, Thailand. Indorama Ventures has 70 operating sites in 24 countries. In one year they estimate that they recycle 1.43 billion plastic bottles manufacturing the plastic into Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)  bottle flakes and post consumer recycle (PCR) for the textile market IPI -NPT chips are produced. According to a recent study published, Thailand along with China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are on the list of the world's top-five plastic polluters. Cleaning up plastic pollution in Thailand is a challenge due to obstacles caused by culture, infrastructure and environment. Many plastic items like shopping bags, and food wrapping tend to be used for short periods before being discarded. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
© Getty

In their article “ Recycling is broken. Can we fix it? ” (October 27), Leslie Hook and John Reed did not address the supply part of the equation. There has been a shift towards massive quantities of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging and containers for consumers that are unavoidable. Indeed, plastics have largely replaced recyclable and renewable paper-based alternatives, particularly with raw, processed or ready to eat foods.

This shift occurred because of costs; plastic has become cheap. In the US, the fracking boom has produced an enormous glut of natural gas liquids, which provide the feedstocks for making plastics. Shell, for instance, is building a $6bn plant that will produce 1.6m metric tons of the plastic polyethylene every year, provided with $1.65bn in tax credits from the state of Pennsylvania. There are many other such plants newly operating or under construction. The resulting plastics will be use somewhere and for something, most likely finding their way into consumer packaging and products that eventually are disposed of in some way.

The externalities of plastics and fracking have been socialised. Public policy and laws must be changed to drastically limit hard-to-recycle plastics and mandate that the producers of this garbage (like Shell) must accept this waste for re-use in some productive manner.

Gregg A Spindler
Cazenovia, NY, US

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