“Tthe high recycling rates of post-consumer paper, cardboard, and metals prove that
recycling can be an effective way to reclaim valuable natural material resources. The problem
lies not with the concept or process of recycling but with the material itself – it is plastic
recycling that has always failed. Even when millions of tons of waste plastic were still being
exported to China each year, plastics recycling never managed to reach 10%.”
So says Beyond Plastics in a report estimating that less than 6$ by volume of plastic in the U.S. is actually recycled, with the rest being landfilled or burned or maybe dumped in the ocean. And there’s a lot of it: “Plastic waste generation is increasing in the U.S., up from 60 pounds per person per year in 1980 to 218 pounds per person in 2018 (per EPA data)8 – a 263% total increase (roughly 15% per year).”
Avoiding it when possible is the only answer, but I realize that it’s often not possible to avoid it.
The whole report is here.
Also, NREL estimates that the energy required to make the plastic that’s shoved into landfills is equivalent to 5% of the entire country’s energy needs.