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A woman using a plastic recycling machine. | Photo credit: Joris Vanbriel

The Plastic Industry Knowingly Pushed Recycling Myth for Decades, New Report Finds

March 22, 2024

The Plastic Industry Knowingly Pushed Recycling Myth for Decades, New Report Finds

Ask students: What is "advanced recycling"? When did the skepticism about the effectiveness of recycling within the plastic industry emerge?

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The world produces an average of 430 million metric tons of plastic each year. The United States alone produces tens of millions of tons of plastic waste annually. Yet on average, only about 5 to 6 percent of plastic in the U.S. is recycled. NPR correspondent Michael Copley joins Ali Rogin to discuss a new report on the plastic industry’s tactics to push recycling and avoid regulation.

View the transcript of the story.

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Discussion Questions

  1. Who produces 10s of millions of tons of plastic every year?
  2. What is "advanced recycling"?
  3. When did the skepticism about the effectiveness of recycling within the plastic industry emerge?
  4. How does the plastics industry propose to address plastic waste?
  5. Why has there been historical skepticism within the plastic industry regarding the effectiveness of recycling?

Focus Questions

What role does public trust play in the effectiveness of the plastics industry's claims about future recycling initiatives?

Media literacy: How can students stay informed about climate change topics?

Lesson Plans on Climate Change

Explore more resources for educators to find a wide-range of relevant preK-12 lessons on climate change or supporting young people as they continue to lead the conversation around the climate change crisis.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Classroom.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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