For years, government campaigns and environmental activism have encouraged us to recycle. But while recycling may feel like the responsible thing to do, it’s not widespread across the world. And recycling has its own problems. When you look at what’s happened to all plastic made over time, the numbers aren’t encouraging: As of 2015, only 9% of all plastic ever made had been recycled, 12% was incinerated and 79% was in landfills or the environment, according to research from Geyer and others. In 2017, only about 8% of the plastic produced in the US was recycled. Global recycling averages are closer to 15% to 20% today, Geyer said, but it’s difficult to quantify how effective recycling programs actually are. While producing a plastic bottle from recycled materials uses less energy than making one from scratch, that bottle made from recycled plastic costs more and is usually of poorer quality.
“Nothing is designed for recycling — it’s all an afterthought,” he said. “We get a material that costs more to produce than it’s worth on the market. Virgin plastic is just dirt cheap to make.” Ultimately, the point of reusing and recycling plastic is to cut down on the production of new plastic. If you’re recycling your plastic water bottles and buying another case, you’re not actually helping solve the problem.
“Not every country has resources to create a sustainable recycling system,” said Tobias Haider, a research associate at PlastX, an organization based at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt, Germany, that explores the role of plastics in our society and their impacts on the environment. “If you don’t have that, you also don’t have the resources to tackle the waste problem itself.”
Compounding the problem is where a country’s recycling goes. The United States sends much of its scrap plastic and cardboard overseas with China. But in 2018, China stopped taking in most American scrap materials, leaving some US cities to pay more for their recycling programs or end them altogether, and further increasing the burden on other Asian countries.
Even if you try to replace plastics with another material, like paper, there’s still an ecological impact: You’d just be throwing away a paper bag after a few hours, instead of a plastic one. “The sustainable answer would be to create a circular system which reuses the items as much as possible,” Haider said. “Plastic products would not be a problem if we reused them.” For example, you can reuse plastic grocery bags far more times than paper bags because they’re more durable.
1. Which of the following statements can be the conclusion of the article?
a. Recycling waste is more damaging to the environment.
b. The effectiveness of recycling plastic is overhyped
c. The best way to mitigate plastic problem is to reuse it
d. There is no viable option available for plastic problem.
2. What role is played by the description of research from Geyer and others, in relation to the conclusion?
a. It provides support to the conclusion by providing an example.
b. It provides support to the conclusion by providing a contradictory example.
c. It weakens the conclusion by providing an example.
d. It is unrelated to the conclusion.
3. What is the role played by the statement ‘When you look at what’s happened to all plastic made over time, the numbers aren’t encouraging’ in the argument?
a. It forms the premise of the argument.
b. It forms the conclusion of the argument
c. Both A and B
d. Neither A nor B
4. Which of the following statements, if true, would most weaken the argument presented in the last paragraph?
a. The recycled plastic has less impact on the environment.
b. The plastic doesn’t ever completely recycle.
c. The recycled plastic is less harmful for human that used plastic.
d. Reusing plastic had deleterious impact on human health as it leaves plastic particles when old.
5. Which of the following statements, if true, would strengthen the case for recycling?
a. Recycled plastic are easy to decompose
b. Many countries are establishing plants to recycle plastic
c. Recycling plastic is cheaper in Asian countries.
d. The US had seen recent upsurge in plastic recycling.