Is Recycling Worth It Anymore? The Truth Is Complicated.

America produces more waste per capita than any other country in the world. And recycling, which was once considered the solution to that problem, isn’t really working anymore.

Recycling works, but it’s not magic. As America continues to lead the world in per capita waste production, it’s becoming more and more clear that everybody-- manufacturer and consumers-- “over-believe” in recycling.

This film is based in part on Throughline's podcast episode "The Litter Myth". Listen here:


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    NPRNPR22 dagar sedan
    • Good video and excellent topic, however, the video didn't talk about solutions much at all. Most videos I see about pollution, waste, etc. highlight the negative effects and problems and no solutions. Yes, we need to consume less but we still need food and products, how are they going to be packaged? I suggest bamboo and hemp for packaging and setting up incinerator/power plants for all waste that can't be recycled. Many cities already do this. No need to fill up waste yards when we can burn it for power production.

      Russell Fine ArtsRussell Fine Arts2 dagar sedan
    • Here's some feedback: fuck your survey.

      Marty McFlyMarty McFly2 dagar sedan
    • 🤠

      Brian MarshallBrian Marshall7 dagar sedan
    • HOLA 5a IBI 2021 miren el video 2 veces

      TheMasterGamer996TheMasterGamer99622 dagar sedan
  • See : take all organic waste and transform it into 'green' methanol using gasification, which can be used to create new plastic. Repeat indefinitely....

    tardxtardx6 timmar sedan
  • NPR hates America, too bad npr decided to alienate half their listeners…..

    Joe FosterJoe FosterDag sedan
  • Best, most concise, yet informative, video I’ve seen yet on our waste problem. Next episode, an easy method to influence our manufacturers to fix this problem.

    Jordan LankhorstJordan LankhorstDag sedan
  • Remember people Reduce first then re-use, lastly recycle

    yaoitieryaoitierDag sedan
  • Would like to see more solutions to problems, not just continually talking about the problem.

    Russell Fine ArtsRussell Fine Arts2 dagar sedan
  • Those confounded numbers. Some you place in the blue bin and the others you need to go to google and find where to drive it.

    AubreyAubrey2 dagar sedan
  • The obese zone dentsply guess because raven subjectively scrub over a temporary silk. cheerful, stupid carp

    Christian LinChristian Lin2 dagar sedan
  • doesnt japan incinerate and use it for energy?

    Internet “N” EnjoyerInternet “N” Enjoyer2 dagar sedan
  • Recycling is mostly a moral convenience and a way for someone else to take your shit to landfill because most people don’t know how to separate their garbage. Imagine all that organic packaging. The hypocrisy is hilarious. But if it makes ya feel better about yourself.

    JoanJoan2 dagar sedan
  • more guilt, wow what a solution

    ramshambo2001ramshambo20012 dagar sedan
  • Those two broads working for the city sounded like horrible people. Making it seem like it's the resident's fault. When I look at the material my city provides me for my recycling, I see the word "PLASTIC" not "only opaque polypropylene based plastics used to contain organic substances" It's not the resident's responsibility to know what to recycle. If it's plastic, it goes in. If you don't like it, IT'S YOUR DAMN JOB TO FIX IT, NOT OURS. Stupid bitches. Do your jobs.

    Marty McFlyMarty McFly2 dagar sedan
  • I like how a "recycling specialist" has multiple single-use plastics just on her desk like solo cups and a cup from Subway like Subway will let you walk in and reuse the same cup lmao.

    IT SundaeIT Sundae3 dagar sedan
  • This is a big duh huh. I would have ever though trash was profitable. Especially when China has free labor camps.

    Michael CarolinaMichael Carolina3 dagar sedan
  • Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Joe Rogan is getting millions of hits in the same time that NPR is getting thousands. You should wonder about this. .. Are you wondering ❓ .. You should be wondering.

    bimmjimbimmjim3 dagar sedan
  • Why is there so many plastic around the recycling coordinators, one use cups and bottles

    Maria BoriasovaMaria Boriasova3 dagar sedan
  • Have we fully explored the volcano option?

    Chicken N. WafflesChicken N. Waffles3 dagar sedan
  • 65gf5555t555555555

    Sydney WeidmanSydney Weidman4 dagar sedan
  • Can't it be burned to make electricity??

    Alex JohnsonAlex Johnson4 dagar sedan
  • This has been bothering me greatly since I briefly worked at a plastics manufacturer for food containers. Literally made me want to run and join a commune. Blaming the consumer for capitalist greed(or laziness) is counterintuitive.

    jtchmpgnejtchmpgne4 dagar sedan
  • Another example of unfettered Capitalism

    ET HimselfET Himself4 dagar sedan
  • "refuse, reduce, reuse"

    Maggie HessMaggie Hess6 dagar sedan
  • maybe doc brown can teach us how he convert trash to energy in order for his delorean ? to fly 😋

    kirstie bkirstie b6 dagar sedan
  • i LOVE litter pickers!

    kirstie bkirstie b6 dagar sedan
  • i do the best i can in regards to recycling in my community. i have a guide from the town that i refer to. sometimes i don’t know what to do with certain items and i just chuck them. i often feel guilty because i’m not recycling the correct way. on a different note, i have NO understanding of how people can litter on land or in the ocean.

    kirstie bkirstie b6 dagar sedan
  • it didn’t work putting it in a volcano? dang.

    kirstie bkirstie b6 dagar sedan
  • Paper boxes (Tetra-pak) can be recycled. The paper used on it is new, not recycled, and can be used to improve carton box paper better. In Brazil there's a experimental plant that uses plasma to evaporate the plastic and make very clean aluminum. The evaporated plastic becomes candle wax after it's cooled. The carbon fee Canada created is a very interesting tool to control these things.

    Max HeadromMax Headrom6 dagar sedan
  • why thing with volcano didn twork

    TomislavTomislav7 dagar sedan
  • I know what to do I wash every thing out make sure ours is the cleanest and I only put in 1-4 plastics

    Time Lapse VideosTime Lapse Videos7 dagar sedan
  • Retailers and grocery stores need to rethink how they sell to consumers. I'd be ok with bringing my own containers to buy milk, soda, or water. Or even meats and yogurts, etc... I already bring my own shopping bags.

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  • The uptight freon pathogenetically bare because father neurochemically dream minus a stingy colombia. muddled, fretful hovercraft

    Julia PhillipsvuiuyfJulia Phillipsvuiuyf7 dagar sedan
  • The one spruce ecologically permit because helen geographically prepare vice a ready monday. ready, vengeful cold

    Marcella WatsonMarcella Watson9 dagar sedan
  • If we do so little to cover our guilt on re-cycling, think of the shell game been fed to the public on global warming. It's all business as usual, make that dollar at any cost.

    jascam1jascam110 dagar sedan
  • It's a stupid question, there is no other choice, unless pollution is the only option I guess 🤦😬👀

    Scorpion's DogScorpion's Dog10 dagar sedan
  • Incinerate it all, like when I was a kid in the early 1960's. Problem solved.

    Jason RodgersJason Rodgers10 dagar sedan
  • In to a volcano !!! That idea has legs actually I reckon!

    xxxenricopxxxenricop12 dagar sedan
  • Now here in Tucson we can't put glass bottles in recycling bins we have to take it to a specific place

    Whispering FlowerWhispering Flower12 dagar sedan
  • Pretty sure you can't recycle live ammunition.

    SpyralspyderSpyralspyder12 dagar sedan
  • How have more people not seen this. I see stupid youtubers or family vloggers with millions of views. Ugh

    yungbeaztyungbeazt13 dagar sedan
  • 1:40 cap - " Singapore generated 76 kilograms of single-use plastic waste per person in 2019, making it the leading single-use plastic waste polluter on a per capita basis worldwide." - Not only that but China produces the majority of the plastic consumed in the world. "China biggest generator of plastic waste globally, as it generated about 18kg (40lbs) of plastic waste per person during the year 2019, according to an Australian study." - 2021 -

    Bryan AguiarBryan Aguiar16 dagar sedan
  • Realistic and informative about the limitations of recycling. Depressing really. But what are the realistic SOLUTIONS? We should work with manufactures; but what is the proposal to manufacturers? The plastic 'codes' are wrong, but what should they be? Angst without hope, noise without music, recycled waste without a future.

    Michael BorgasMichael Borgas16 dagar sedan
  • Most plastics are made of petroleum and natural gas. Another good reason to think and read labels before yoi buy. It IS posssible to do without a lot of plastic.

    Marta HolmesMarta Holmes16 dagar sedan
  • Someone should have thought things thru before they forced the people to recycle. I distinctly recall the people being forced into it. And now you want to make us feel guilty for our consumption? There are a whole lot of people in this county ...takes a lot to sustained them. People buy what is available. Make it different. Put things on the manufacturer where it belongs.

    Donna BarreDonna Barre16 dagar sedan
  • We the people and the corporations should talk about the other 2 Rs before Recycling, “Reduce and Reuse” which could eliminate lot of waste.

    Pradeep AlapartiPradeep Alaparti17 dagar sedan
  • Why can't the companies that produce the packaging take it back and reuse the components again...same product , same use , same sale to same customers....

    Dena SharpeDena Sharpe17 dagar sedan
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    Evelyn SingletonEvelyn Singleton17 dagar sedan
  • Guy who works at recycling plant wishes there was no recycling. 🤦‍♀️

    Seth SchaffnerSeth Schaffner18 dagar sedan
  • @8:36 volcano

    Seth SchaffnerSeth Schaffner18 dagar sedan
  • The fact the the United States has created so many problems around the world is disgusting , and yet they turn a blind eye to everything . Im in real honest disgust.

    Ferny MFerny M18 dagar sedan
    • and they are the first to start building homes with wood something so natural , bitch use that dirty as plastic !!!

      Ferny MFerny M18 dagar sedan
  • So, a big part of the problem is that people are too stupid to identify and sort recyclable materials. Big surprise. :-P

    Book SteerBook Steer18 dagar sedan
  • Talking about recycling in front of single use caps on the shelf

    fujimotosanfujimotosan20 dagar sedan
  • I don't like how the public is portrayed as being dumb for the 'wishcycling'-I challenge anyone to look up any 'what goes into your local recycling bin' regulations and not see that there are many items that there is no clear answer to "is this recyclable or not?" Both the recycling industry and the product makers and packager need to communicate and cooperate WITH EACH OTHER-not just passing everything off onto the people. I remember being specifically told in the first grade, by a teacher, that the 'three arrows in a triangle/circle' means 'don't put this in the trash, it is recyclable'. Then for years I would occasionally see something about some numbers that were better than others in the triangles, but neither the recycling industry or manufacturer or packager or shipper EVER bothered to really explain and make the actual reality public knowledge.

    Nyarlathotep13 Nyarlathotep13Nyarlathotep13 Nyarlathotep1321 dag sedan
  • Don’t teach children how to past test. Teach them how the world works around them.

    C2welderC2welder21 dag sedan
  • Build Waste to Energy plants. Problem solved!

    Diego PerezDiego Perez21 dag sedan
  • my god every well established program in the US is now in crisis

    kerpal3kerpal321 dag sedan
  • BIG shout out to the Editor of this piece, they did a FANTASTIC job!

    Tim RogersTim Rogers21 dag sedan
  • So cringe just blaming consumers again just like the early 2000s and 90s. Hello Corporate America, stop labeling things as recyclable if they're not recyclable.

    KissthefishKissthefish21 dag sedan
  • Useful. Each industry deligate responsibilities to others. And how innovations were addressed without thinking just for the cheaper cost.

    Sonal ChauhanSonal Chauhan21 dag sedan
  • Bring back glass containers! Plastic sucks

    MrJernov91MrJernov9122 dagar sedan

    TheMasterGamer996TheMasterGamer99622 dagar sedan
  • Agreed it's a mess but could you speak to some of the successes of metals recycling?

    Steve PettersenSteve Pettersen22 dagar sedan
  • The truth is not complicated. The problem lies in the failure of policy makers as well as general public to realize that the idea of using recycling to solve waste problem is analogous to an attempt to solving energy shortage by building perpetual motion machines. The details why perpetual motion machines fail seem complicated but the truth is rather simple. They fail because they simply violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law simple says entropy only increases with time. So does my credit card debt, or the National debt, city traffic, highway traffic, crime rate, inflation, just to name a few.

    TRLTRL23 dagar sedan
  • Wish they would've actually provided information on how to recycle, or at least linked something.

    Maria WinchellMaria Winchell23 dagar sedan
  • It seems like they don't recycle it because how do you explain the recycling trash mess in the Pacific Ocean bigger than the size of Texas? Where I am in Arizona, people don't know the difference between trash and recycle. Everyone throws their trash in the recycle bin and the truck comes and picks it up. So they must be dumping it in the same landfill. Or I assumed the trash company would have complained and then refuse service. Cuz that's a mess trying to clean out trash from recycle

    ice4mysoda619ice4mysoda61923 dagar sedan
  • All the trash in the USA from the last century could fit in a standard depth land lift 18 square miles... did a hole a bury it you morons. 98% of the trash in the ocean is from Asia.

    W THORW THOR23 dagar sedan
  • this need to be taught from elementary school to college

    KimiaKimia24 dagar sedan
  • Half the waste is probably unused Zune Marketplace gift cards

    Ainsley HarriottAinsley Harriott24 dagar sedan
  • Gee, when I was growing up, we had a great recycling system. It was called RETURNABLE BOTTLES. NO PLASTIC. But NOOOOOOOOOO, we had to change to plastic and recycling. Didn't work, apparently.

    D.E.B. BD.E.B. B24 dagar sedan
  • Actually China produces the most waste

    אε0אε024 dagar sedan
  • lol great ending. NPR, please do a show on the suburban experiment, but not from the perspective of global warming, but quality of life:

    alal24 dagar sedan
  • My town has sent a newsletter out about recycling and it's a cute little infograph of what and what not to put in recycling. It's been very useful

    MelMel24 dagar sedan
  • Back in my days, it was "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" . Today, consumers don't reduce the amount of waste they generate, don't reuse it, and expect someone else to recycle everything for them. "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has become "It's somebody else's problem." Thanks for the videos!!!

    CC24 dagar sedan
  • Our barcode and scanner technologies can help us to the most extend determining what is recycle-able or not. Most Americans know how to do it cheaper with our existing modern technologies, it's only the lefty big-govt wants to make it more difficult so their contributors can have higher pay and charge people more, just like the CCP of mainland China getting most of the wealth and power of a country.

    Sanford FahySanford Fahy25 dagar sedan
  • We know most of our technologies work, why don't we simply first foam-insulating shipping containers into dwell-able homes (with air-conditioning, windows, and doors) to temporarily solve the problem of homelessness in California? How California Created the Homelessness Industrial Complex | Scott Silverman 32,465 views Apr 28, 2021 Is it because the lefty big-govt want to rob more money from us with the homelessness problem first so they don't allow anybody to use our technologies to do that?

    Sanford FahySanford Fahy25 dagar sedan
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    Frank morrisonFrank morrison25 dagar sedan
  • Landfills are the answer. No more plastic in the ocean or environment. The earth has enough landfill space for millions of years

    Paul MillerPaul Miller25 dagar sedan
  • Recycling in the UK is a complicated mess - it's very difficult to navigate even if you're an expert

    ContextContext25 dagar sedan
  • Sounds like a made up capitalist issue.

    StrangeDukeStrangeDuke25 dagar sedan
  • FINALLY MEDIA IS TALKING ABOUT THIS!!!! I've been saying this for more than 2 years now! No one believes me! This is NOT only America - it's nearly all modernized countries' recycling systems. Countries are simply piling up their "recycling"... it's just piling up and up.

    3DCGdesign3DCGdesign25 dagar sedan
    • @somethingsal what do you mean "our new infrastructure"?

      3DCGdesign3DCGdesign12 dagar sedan
    • I know! Everyone thinks I’m some nut but won’t take any time to read, watch, or listen to anything I send them. It needs to be part of our new infrastructure project.

      somethingsalsomethingsal12 dagar sedan
  • I think we can try to find ways to help others instead of recycling or throwing others away. We should be respectful to others, everything might be alive. Instead of recycling we can try to find a safe place to put others, and we can come to that safe place and put what others would call "plastic" and keep them safe there. I hope this comment helps.

    Lets Try To Do GoodLets Try To Do Good25 dagar sedan
  • It never was

    Trista MAGATrista MAGA25 dagar sedan
  • The Greek word Sin means 'miss the mark'. All people miss the mark, so all people sin. The consequence of Sin is spiritual death, aka hell. Jesus of Nazareth, who was God in the flesh of a man, died for the remission of sin, including yours, was buried, and rose form the dead 3 days later. If you simply believe in this to apply to you and trust Jesus to save you from hell then you have everlasting life in heaven. As Jesus says in John 6:47 "verily, verily I say unto you, he that believes in me has everlasting life."

    TheModer8terTheModer8ter25 dagar sedan
  • Fuck all those materials.. Containers bottles etc. should be standardized, just like you have standardized containers in shipping and logistics, this should be standardized as well, made more durable, re-usable, and easy to recycle when its too damaged to be re-used again.. This would be an impact on logistics and space in warehouses, but thats surely better than living in a trash and polluting eco-systems with it

    NotEvenDeathCanSaveYouFromMeNotEvenDeathCanSaveYouFromMe26 dagar sedan
  • I want all the details of that volcano experiment though...

    Samantha PawliukSamantha Pawliuk26 dagar sedan
    • It's just like throwing garbage in a fire. The stuff is incinerated and all the toxic gases imaginable are released directly into the atmosphere.

      Brian HartmanBrian Hartman2 dagar sedan
  • When I was a kid we had trash burn barrels. They were made illegal long ago but I wonder how much better or worse they would be?

    Gabriel GreerGabriel Greer26 dagar sedan
    • Burning garbage releases toxic chemicals like dioxins which can cause serious health problems including birth defects. If every family was burning their own garbage then they'd be polluting the air, water and soil around them, which would be especially bad in populated areas. Large modern incinerators can reduce some of the toxic fumes from burning by filtering the output. This other vid talks about some interesting modern solutions for using heat to turn garbage into energy.

      CimreauCimreau23 dagar sedan
  • Would’ve been nice to know how that lady reuses her apple sauce cups

    thedarkgreenvanmanthedarkgreenvanman26 dagar sedan
  • Claiming a metal sink isn’t recycleable seems lazy to me.

    thedarkgreenvanmanthedarkgreenvanman26 dagar sedan
  • I've been waiting for a credible piece on this subject, and I'm happy to see this one. It seems we should restrict the amount of waste which people actually put out for pickup. We should limit to high value goods such as aluminum and clear, clean plastics. Glass should not be recycled, it's made from silica and costs more to haul than it is worth. The dirty peanut butter jar is such a great visual trope to illustrate how delusional the general public is. Complete loss of objective reality.

    Blair MielnikBlair Mielnik26 dagar sedan
    • You are right. The amount of waste an individual household produces is shocking

      ContextContext25 dagar sedan
  • It's time to put the burden on manufacturers to package products in biodegradable materials ... or pay higher taxes to dispose of the excess waste! Take away the Get-Out-Of-Jail card away, forever.

    Mr. BMr. B26 dagar sedan
  • I love the offer at the end. You guys want to take a bail home? 😆

    IncredibleDroneIncredibleDrone26 dagar sedan
  • It's all become a massive Scam. Greed has ruined everything again. We see all over the World how little Recycling actually occurs. To me, it's more about Social Conditioning, here in the UK where local Jobsworths like to preach to people that encourages them to do small things on command. No wonder I never have or will recycle anything. They charge for Bin Bags I don't get.

    C DubC Dub26 dagar sedan
  • Plastic makes diesel. How much are they selling it for?

    Jacob CarterJacob Carter26 dagar sedan
  • Sweden incinerate there plastic and paper waste to make power, seems like a good idea, better then just re

    Kevin BosKevin Bos26 dagar sedan
    • Instead of incinerating others, we can try to put others in a safe place and leave them there and try to help them live longer together there ,and keep them safe. I hope this comment helps.

      Lets Try To Do GoodLets Try To Do Good25 dagar sedan
  • Reduce what you don’t require Reuse what you don’t reduce Repair what you can’t reuse Reassign what you can’t repair Recycle what you can’t reassign Retire what you can’t recycle Even if you don’t care about keeping this country and the world around it beautiful and pristine, following these simple steps will save you a fortune. This, I can promise you. You will have lots more spending cash.

    Joseph HowardJoseph Howard27 dagar sedan
  • Just burn it, recycle the heat .. etc it can be done but its all about money.

    Rambling Rob (Rambling Rob)Rambling Rob (Rambling Rob)27 dagar sedan
  • We need robots to sift through and sort out garbage...and we need bacteria eating plastics.

    Steve GoveaSteve Govea27 dagar sedan
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    Karen GriffincjoirsccKaren Griffincjoirscc27 dagar sedan
  • I hope the lady telling me not to use single use plastics... is reusing the subway plastic single use glass to her left... 14:00

    Dale HarshDale Harsh27 dagar sedan
  • Burn it in a fluidized bed furnace and made electricity out of it.

    PriesthoodagitatorPriesthoodagitator27 dagar sedan