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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