Recycling is a Myth. A recent documentary on Frontline, PBS, entitled “Plastic Wars” looks behind the growth of the plastics industry’s own cynical promotion of recycling in the United States. You can view it on YouTube: and can also access it from

The documentary illuminates the problem of recycling symbols on products that can’t be economically recycled. And follows the trail of a major “recycling” company to rural fields in Indonesia where plastic film, containers, bags and food wrapping are dumped.

An industry-sponsored group, called the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, pushed for legislation in the 1980’s that mandated recycling symbols with a series of numbers on various plastic products. As the Frontline reporter learned at DuPont’s own library, industry analysts knew that most plastic products could not be economically recycled. 

At the same time, the supposed qualities of plastic packaging – its resilience, its ability to protect food and perishable products – were aggressively marketed.  Between 1990 and 2010, plastics production in the United States almost doubled.