Big Oil Lies About Plastics Recycling and Further Poisons the Planet in the Process

Big Oil Lies About Plastics Recycling and Further Poisons the Planet in the Process

A recent investigative report from NPR and PBS Frontline has revealed that, for nearly five decades, “companies like Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and their lobbying and trade organizations in Washington” have spent tens of millions of dollars selling the public on the idea that most plastic could be, and was being, recycled despite having knowledge that this was not the case at all. Instead, most of this plastic ends up in landfills and the ocean. In fact, according to this report, less than 10 percent of this plastic has been recycled.

Internal documents uncovered in the investigation show that as far back as 1973, industry officials were being told by scientist that investigated the possibility of recycling that it was infeasible, in part, because plastic degrades with each turnover and recycling plastic is too costly since it was so cheap to make it new from oil. The report also includes a quote from the former president of the now Plastics Industry Association, who says the quiet part out loud that: “[i]f the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment.” In other words, by selling the false idea recycling, big oil sold plastic, and all the very real environmental harm that comes with it.

Fast forward 47 years, and the planet is absolutely awash in toxic microplastics that threaten the health and well-being of every living species that occupies it.  And yet the industry continues pumping out as much plastic waste as it can. Predictably, industry representative’s deny any intent to mislead (just like with climate change, right?) and affirm a commitment to ensuring all plastic is recycled. But the fundamental problem remains unchanged – namely that plastic is very expensive and cannot be reused more than once or twice due to degradation. So, forgive me for not holding my breath.

If you believe your health has been impacted through exposure to microplastics, you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore your potential for a claim.


For nearly five decades, big oil companies have spent tens of millions of dollars selling the public on the idea that most plastic was being recycled. A recent investigation found that less than 10 percent of the plastic has been recycled. Zak Zatezalo explains.