Beware the false hope of recycling | 2022 | Nature

From a circular economy perspective, the hope associated into recycling may be misplaced.

The idea of recycling being the optimal solution is built on the thinking that a near-perfect closed-loop system can be achieved, and that if materials are kept in the circular value chain we can use them indefinitely. This is unfortunately far from the truth. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 15% of plastic waste is collected for recycling, and, of that, 40% is discarded from the recycling process on account of its low quality. As a result, actual plastic recycling rates are as low as 9%. […]

Massive investments in recycling infrastructure could lead to a ‘lock-in’ situation, whereby we build a sector with infrastructure that makes us dependent on the recycling of most plastics — even if that is not the optimal solution. Such a scenario has resulted in some countries making major investments in incineration plants that facilitate the continuous burning of waste to produce energy. In Denmark, where massive past investments were made in such plants, waste now needs to be imported to ensure that these incinerators meet their energy production targets.

“Beware the false hope of recycling” | Kristian Syberg 2022 at Beware the false hope of recycling