Benji Jones in Vox:
Plastic recycling doesn’t work, no matter how diligently you wash out your peanut butter container. Only about 15 percent of plastic waste is collected for recycling worldwide, and of that, about half ends up discarded. That means just 9 percent of plastic waste is recycled.
The rest — some 91 percent of all plastic waste — ends up in landfills, incinerators, or as trash in the environment. One report estimated that 11 million metric tons of plastic trash leaked into the ocean in 2016, and that number could triple by 2040 as the global population rises and lower-income countries develop. Plastic is now simply everywhere: at the deepest depths of the ocean, on the tallest mountains, in hundreds of species of wildlife, and even in human placentas. It’s hard to imagine meaningful solutions to a problem of such epic proportions. Campaigns to ban things like plastic straws almost seem like a joke when compared to the staggering amounts of waste produced by everything else we use — including the plastic cups those straws go in.
Now, however, there might actually be a reason to feel hopeful. Late last year, world leaders, scientists, and advocates started working on a global, legally binding treaty under the United Nations to end plastic waste. The second round of negotiations concluded last week in Paris with a plan to produce an initial draft of the deal.