Why John Oliver is right, plastic recycling is a broken system and what we should do about it

The plastics industry is lying about recycling, says John Oliver

‘Our personal behavior is not the main culprit here, despite what the plastics industry has spent decades and millions of dollars trying to convince us,’ the TV host said

John Oliver tackled the failure that is plastic recycling during Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, pointing out that the United States recycles less than 9 per cent of items but “the plastics industry has managed to convince us all that it’s our fault”.

Plastic production is booming with more than half of all plastic ever made created within the last two decades.

Vast amounts of plastic aren’t recycled for reasons including its complex mix of resins; contamination or difficulty in sorting; or the simple fact it’s cheaper to make virgin plastic.

The pollution ends up in landfill, is incinerated or shipped overseas to less wealthy nations.

In 2018 China said it would not longer accept large volumes of plastic waste. And while 180 nations signed an agreement last year to set limits on plastic pollution being shipped to poorer countries, The New York Times reported that US exports remained much the same and that scrap plastic exports actually increased.

Additionally, an estimated 10 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean annually – the equivalent of a garbage truck every minute.