Plastic Recycling


As we all know, plastic poses a prodigious and persistent threat to our environment and ourselves. Many factors contribute to this dilemma and one of the most important is disinformation. The purpose of this page is to provide a brief overview of some of the forces influencing the life-cycle of plastic.

Some high level statistics

Plastic Production,
Plastic Pollution

8.3 Billion Metric Tons
In 2017, cumulative global plastic production reached 8.3 billion metric tons. This figure is expected to increase to 34 billion metric tons by 2050.

91% of Plastic is Never Recycled

5.25 Trillion Pieces
Experts believe there are now 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic pollution across our planet’s oceans.

The Shocking Truth

16% of plastic is ever repurposed

If 9% of plastic is recycled and 16% of that is ever reprocessed to make new plastics than that means that 1.44% of all plastic is recycled, period.

Plastic Recycling 101

Why is the vast majority of plastic never recycled, even now?

○ There are 7 categories of plastics and only 2 are recyclable

○ Sorting and Contamination

○ Complex Economics and Market Forces

○○ Is plastic ever truely recycleable? ○○


A recent Greenpeace report found that some PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles are the only types of plastic that are truly recyclable; and yet only 29% of PET bottles are collected for recycling, and of this, only 21% of the bottles are actually made into recycled materials due to contamination.
And so only 6.09% of PET bottles are actually recycled.


Sorting plastics from general waste and then filtering for types #1 & #2 plastics is extremely problematic. When non-recycleable material is miscategorized it chokes the downstream recycling process, becoming costly and ineffective. In an effort to overfit against false-positives, much potentially recycleable plastic is disregarded at step 1.


Contamination is when useless rubbish is mixed in with recycleables, like when plastic containers still have remnants of food or plastic bottles have ciggarette butts inside. Contamination poses a considerable and persistent problem for recyclers, and it is estimated that 15% of recycleables are contaminated.


No recycling program can work in a vaccuum and must play fair with larger market forces. In order to be truely effective, a recycling system must be self-sustaining.

Moreover, because of the glut of natural gas and the resulting boom in U.S. petrochemical production, virgin plastic is now cheaper than recycled plastic.

Plastic Recycling Is Finite

1.44% of plastic is ever recycled, ultimately NO plastic is truely recycled.

Plastic can only be recycled once or twice—and usually not into a food container—since the polymers break down in the recycling process.

Thus, as plastic is recycled it becomes progressively more and more unusable, eventually becoming landill waste or ocean pollution.

Plastic Propaganda

Why Does Plastic Recycling Get So Much Attention?

Plastic Lobbies
The oil and gas industries — the makers of plastic — knew all along that plastic recycling would never be realistically feasible on a large scale, yet they spend millions of advertising dollars each year telling the public that plastic can and should be recycled.

In addition to running ads, big oil and plastic installed collection centers, funded recycling projects, and paid for public regulation campaigns all to convince the public that recycling works. WHY?

Plastic Lobbies

Internal documents from the 1970s and former executives confirmed that the industry knew all along that recycling at a large scale would never be economically viable because the process costs more than making new plastic.
Larry Thomas, who led the industry's lobbying group for more than a decade, broke his silence about what happened decades ago. The plastic industry never wanted recycling to work, because recycling was in direct competition with their business of selling as much oil as they possibly could.

Why Use Less When You Can Recycle

A prime example, the oil and gas industry lobbied to put recycling symbols with numbers on all plastic, even if they weren't recyclable, to bolster the public image that plastic can be a renewable resource.

The illusion that plastic is recycleable emphasizes to consumers that buying plastic products is acceptable because it can be repurposed. This style of disinformation gives the plastic industry a pass, rather than the main message being "Consume Less Plastic" it is "recycle more".

China's National Sword

The Breakdown of American Recycling

For nearly three decades American recyclables were shipped cheaply to China. China started cracking down and is now enforcing its new “National Sword” policy, which bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a much tougher standard for contamination levels. China essentially said the country would no longer act as the world’s trash dump.

4,000 shipping containers a day

China was shipping goods to Europe and the States and that enabled a cheap process of shipping the scrap back to China. So that made it cheaper to ship to China than, say, to ship recycling across the country. And China was the market. Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave US ports bound for China. China sends the US toys, clothes and electronics; in return, some of America’s largest exports back are paper, plastic and aluminum.

By 2018, with dirty waste continuing to appear in imported recyclables, the rising cost of labor, and an abundance of the country’s own potentially recyclable waste, China no longer had the same financial and environmental incentives to accept the world’s waste.

No where else to turn

China's ban exposed the lack of recycling infastructure in America. With no other options the plan was just to divert the plastics to different places like Southeast Asia. That has not been working because countries like Malaysia and Thailand have become overwhelmed with plastic and stopped importing. India just announced it would not take plastics, so the quest for markets is still ongoing.

Insufficient Infastructure

Because U.S. recycling was dependent on China for so many years, our domestic recycling infrastructure was never developed, so there was no economical or efficient way to handle recycling when the market disappeared.

Making the situation more complicated—the U.S. does not have a federal recycling program. Recycling decision-making is currently in the hands of 20,000+ communities accross the U.S., all of which make their own choices about whether and what to recycle.

All 50 American states have been struggling to develop the necessary infrastructure to recycle plastic after China's ban.

The Struggle is Real

As a result of the infastructure vaccuum, U.S. processing facilities and municipalities have either had to pay more to recycle or simply discard the waste. For example, In 2017 Stamford, CT made $95,000 by selling recyclables; in 2018, it had to pay $700,000 to have them removed.

We’re seeing an increase in landfilling and landfills always have dumping fees. At their peak, plastics were selling for $300 a ton and now you have to pay to get rid of them.

Municipalities are cutting back on their recycling and what they will pick up, many places have stopped recycling altogether.

Recyclers are not just cutting plastic but also glass, not because it was ever exported to China but because it’s difficult and expensive to recycle in the first place, so when you’re losing money because of plastics you’re not going to keep propping up an economic loss generator like glass.

Green Worldwide

More Than Just A Solution

The proper handling and disposal of waste is costly and logistics intensive. Moreover, with ever changing regulations and a recycling market which has recently been up-ended, handling waste internally is good business.

Green Worldwide is uniquely positioned to help companies convert this waste liability into a fuel asset. Manufacturing production waste, packaging, used fuels, biomass, plastics, and much more can be reclaimed and converted into a useful onsite fuel by our technology.

Industry Leading Efficiency

Green Worldwid's plants are ideal for poor infrastructure environments as they are: compact, hyper-efficient, and use a remarkably clean oxidation technology, which easily handles Municipal Solid Waste, biofuel, industrial, commercial waste and most noteably PLASTIC.

Become Energy Responsible With Green Worldwide