“Recycle” By Mail Is A Major Climate Fail
JUNE 2021 | BEYOND PLASTICS
Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Clean Up have released a fact sheet that shines a light on the troubling hidden climate and other environmental impacts of mail-back “recycling” programs offered by many major brands.
Although currently little-used, should these mail-back programs grow to scale, the impact of trucking billions of boxes of used single-use plastic products thousands of miles across the country to be downcycled would speed the rise in global temperatures as we creep ever closer to the 1.5 degree C increase that scientists agree we must stay within to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The fact sheet assesses the carbon emissions and packaging waste of four types of common single-use plastic products if they were to be mailed back in cardboard boxes at scale nationwide—condiment packets, chip bags, plastic cups, and plastic cutlery. The carbon emissions from mailing back 6.6 billion condiment packets would be 104,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year, roughly equal to the annual carbon emissions of 23,000 U.S. cars. Shipping back 60% of the snack bags made by one U.S. manufacturer would be equal to the annual carbon emissions of roughly 580,000 U.S. cars.
Rather than promoting climate-intensive false solutions to their plastic waste problems, Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Cleanup call on product companies to create reusable products and adopt local refill programs. At a minimum, these companies should redesign their products to be accepted for recycling or composting via curbside recycling and composting programs.