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Plastics Industry Insiders Reveal the Truth About Recycling | "Plastic Wars" + NPR

31 Mar 2020
Three top executives who represented the plastics industry at a pivotal moment shed new light on the industry’s efforts to overcome growing concern about plastic waste by pushing recycling -- despite the fact that "there was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in a significant way."

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Those are the words of Lewis Freeman, former VP of government affairs for what was then the industry’s chief lobbying group, the Society of the Plastics Industry, in the new FRONTLINE and NPR documentary, "Plastic Wars."

The industry would publicly promote recycling as the solution to the waste crisis — despite internal doubts, from almost the beginning, that widespread plastic recycling could ever be economically viable.

The strategy was simple: “If the public thinks the recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment,” says Larry Thomas, who formerly headed the SPI.

To date, it's estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever been recycled.

For the full story, watch "Plastic Wars," a joint investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR, starting Mar. 31:


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Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
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