The vast majority of plastic that people put into recycling bins is going to be thrown away.
According to the report, the amount of plastic turned into new things has fallen to new lows. As more plastic is produced, that number is expected to go down even more.
According to the standards set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Initiative, no plastic can be called "recyclable". No plastic has ever been recycled or reuses close to the 30 percent rate that is required to reach that standard.
Lisa Ramsden says that more plastic is being produced and that less is being recycled. The crisis will only get worse as the industry plans to triple plastic production by 2050.
Plastic is expensive to collect and sort according to waste management experts. None of the plastic can be melted down together. After a couple of uses, plastic degrades. The more plastic is recycled, the worse it gets.
It is easy to make new plastic. The public doesn't like the fact that plastic trash has few markets.
People were upset when the general manager of Southern Oregon Sanitation told them they couldn't take plastic trash other than soda bottles and jugs. They wanted to put their trash in the recycle bin.
A lot of that material is ending up in a landfill. It isn't going to be recycled. You can't do anything with that material, so it's going to be thrown away.
It has been difficult for the public to absorb the message because they have so many different bins in public places.
They wanted to be transparent with their customers and tell them the truth, unlike companies that keep telling them that plastic is being turned into new things.
It's easier to say "We're going to take everything and we think we can get it recycled, and then look the other way" than it is to say "We're going to take everything and we think we can get it recycled, and then look the other way It's greenwashing at its best.
Some facilities are attempting to reprocess cups and containers because of the markings on the containers. The numbers aren't very high. More than half of recycling facilities in the U.S. accept that type of plastic, but less than 5% of it is actually recycled.
Plans from the oil and gas industry are at odds with the low reprocessing rates. Lobbyists want to recycle every piece of plastic they make by the year 2040. Industry officials couldn't explain how they would reach a 100 percent recycling rate.
The report found that industry officials lied to the public about the recyclability of plastic even though they knew it couldn't be recycled.
The American Chemistry Council didn't reply to NPR's request for comment on the report.
Legislation to ban single use plastic and to pay customers to return plastic bottles is being pushed by environmentalists and lawmakers. The bills have led to successful recycling rates for plastic bottles in some places, but have faced resistance from the plastic and oil industry.
Ramsden said the solution was to switch to systems of reuse and refill. We are at a point where we have to make a decision. Corporations need to stop using the plastic tap.
After years of embracing plastic recycling, many environmental groups say they hope the public will finally see plastic for what it is and ask themselves if there is something else they could be using instead.