The Alliance to End Plastic Waste: a Hopeful but Mixed Message

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), an initiative made up of 28 companies, announced on January 16 its aim to help end plastic waste through infrastructure, innovation, education, and cleanup programs.

While the efforts to clean up the oceans and reduce plastic waste would generally be applauded, some are skeptical of the alliance’s motives. Because many of the companies that comprise the alliance are producers of plastic, there may be a conflict of interest.

It’s a Mixed Message

Some of the AEPW members are plastic, petroleum, and chemical producers but it’s hard to get a comprehensive look at the complete list since it doesn’t appear to be disclosed on their website. While the alliance speaks valiantly about the need to clean the oceans and increase recycling, it also nestles in some pro-plastic messages that could trigger concern.

For example, in a list of facts and percentages pertaining to pollution, it is stated that “replacing plastics in packing and consumer products with alternative materials could raise environmental costs nearly fourfold”. Although plastic has made distribution of necessary products in communities easier, it also uses harmful substances like phthalates and expensive resources such as oil.

There are many alternatives to plastic that are much easier to recycle and compost—and at the very least, we should be moving beyond single-use plastics. Recyclers are currently underrepresented in the initial membership list and for some, it causes some concern that the focus is on cleanup to hide the problem of plastics production rather than reducing, reusing, and recycling to end the need for plastics production altogether.

As it stands, it is estimated that less than 1/5 of all plastic is recycled, and over 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year, which is likely to get worse as our plastic production is forecasted to increase 40% in the next decade.

What More Is There To Do?

It’s also important to put these numbers into perspective. While a billion dollars may seem like a lot of money, it’s spread out over a five-year period, not to mention it’s coming from 28 incredibly profitable companies. That’s pocket change to them—it’s more of a tip of the hat then a valiant sacrifice.

There have been some bans on single-use plastics, such as plastic straws by Disney, United Airlines, and American Airlines, and even fines put in place for them in the entirety of Washington D.C. However, materials recovery and recycling still remain incredibly important in making a long-term mentality shift in how we value our resources.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your Plastics

We believe in contributing to a sustainable planet, leading us on our path of environmental management for future generations and reuse of plastics is crucial to this vision. Recycling is not something we do solely to prevent pollution; it should be a mentality shift towards sustainability and long-term vision.

Berg Mill has a long history as one of the pioneers in the industry, and we are not going anywhere even when faced with recyclable import changes. If you continue to handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions to offload idle scrap, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply.