The plastics industry says there is a way to help solve the crisis of plastic waste plaguing the planet’s oceans, lands and animals — recycle it, chemically. Chemical recycling typically uses heat or chemical solvents to break down plastics into liquid and produce basic chemicals, which can be turned into plastic pellets to make new products. But environmental groups say advanced recycling is a distraction from real solutions like producing and using less plastic. Some neighbors of the recycling operations also worry about air or water pollution.
Class discussion: How much could these advanced recycling methods actually reduce the mountains of plastic we throw away? Could we get by without using so much plastic? Is there much you buy that doesn’t contain or come wrapped in plastic? Chemical recycling may cause pollution, but how much air and water pollution is caused by producing plastic in the first place? Plastic waste can break down into tiny particles of microplastic, which have spread worldwide into our water, air and food chain. Does this invisible pollution worry you?