Items that are difficult to recycle or properly dispose are one of the primary factors contributing to trash in rivers. Even those desperately trying to recycle properly are left with questions. Things like coated paperboard, plastic #1-7, and lids leave consumers confused about what is or isn’t recyclable. Add to this the differences between single- and dual-stream recycling, different rules between various recycling facilities, and the ever-changing recycling market. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect consumers to navigate this maze. This burden on consumers has created an incentive for littering, dumping, improper recycling, and is causing the whole system to break down.
Did you know this trash burden was deliberately placed on us – the consumers? In the 1950s, companies ran ads teaching consumers to dispose of single-use items (think paper cups & napkins, plastic bottles, etc.) rather than continuing to reuse items as they’d done for generations. Then, anti-littering campaigns blamed us for starting pollution and told us we could stop it. We’ve accepted convenience built on plastic that has generated a tremendous amount of profit…and trash. It is time to invest in real solutions that recognize petroleum-based plastics are a failure and a single-use economy is fundamentally flawed.
It’s time for the corporations who created and have been profiting from this problem to now help solve the problem through a fundamental redesign of how our products are made and disposed of. We need to overhaul the system. It’s a big job, but we have done it before. Remember lead paint? Smog? Burning rivers? We can do it again. We must. For the sake of our rivers and the oceans sustained by them.