Recycling won’t solve our plastic crisis – action must start with reducing and reusing


“Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix.” This is what Executive Director of Greenpeace USA Annie Leonard argued in her op-ed in the Guardian last Saturday. We at Plastic-Free Tuesday absolutely agree that recycling is inadequate to solve the plastic pollution problem and further concur with Leonard’s argument that manufacturers must do more to stop plastic pollution at its source by “turning off the tap” and producing less.


Recycling should not be elevated to a co-equal status with reducing plastic consumption and production. Allowing companies to take credit for being “green” and eco-friendly because their products are recyclable – but still perpetuate a single-use, disposable business model – risks a complacency that we can’t afford. Manufacturers must commit to more sustainable practices.

That being said, we must not forget the power of citizen action and specifically the importance of reuse. We must do our part as consumers. By bringing reusable bags, drinking from reusable coffee mugs and water bottles, and supporting companies that reflect our values and encourage reuse, we are not only directly reducing plastic consumption (and thus turning off the tap), but we are also sending the message to corporations that we rate sustainability over convenience, and encouraging them to adapt.

Three ways to take action against the plastic pollution crisis as citizens and consumers:

1) Find reusable alternatives to single-use plastic products. From coffee mugs to water bottles, beeswax wrap (in place of cling film) to cotton washcloths (in place of wet wipes), there are many ways to reduce your own consumption of plastic and at the same time send a message to manufacturers.

2) Let companies know that you want change. Reach out and ask for more sustainable products. Support companies that make it easy to be “green.”

3) After making changes in your household, consider your larger community. Does your office use large plastic water dispensers instead of a filter? A Keurig or Nespresso coffee machine? Look into reusable pods. Are local schools making efforts to reduce waste in school lunches? Sometimes all you have to do is ask.


About Author


Melody has been interested in environmental issues since she was young. Her background is in government and politics, but she’s convinced that action on an individual level can be an equally powerful force. As our Twitter manager, she hopes to help spread the #plasticfree message and keep people informed about how they can be part of the movement and make a difference.


    • Melody

      Hi Michael. Thanks for sharing these articles. While it certainly seems preferable to extract energy from waste rather than just send it to landfill, there are legitimate concerns about emissions and air quality, so we’d still support reducing waste as a first priority. Not only does it avoid all of the problems associated with landfills, but it saves the energy needed for the recycling process not to mention the large quantities of energy required to continuously manufacture and transport single-use goods.

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