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93% of Americans overestimate the extent of plastic recycling: Survey

11 May '23
2 min read
Pic: Shutterstock/Natali Ximich
Pic: Shutterstock/Natali Ximich


  • Around 93 per cent of Americans overestimate the plastic recycling rate, which stands at 5-6 per cent as per Greenpeace.
  • Many Americans misunderstand the connection between plastics, textiles, and fossil fuels, with 69 per cent unaware that crude oil is used for plastic products.
  • Also, 98 per cent overestimate the recycling of discarded textiles.
Ninety-three per cent of Americans overestimate the percentage of plastic products that are recycled and reused each year, including 35 per cent who mistakenly think it is half or more, a survey has revealed. In reality, a report from Greenpeace cited a recycling rate of only 5-6 per cent in 2021.

More than 4 in 5 Americans believe they’re at least somewhat knowledgeable about ways to reduce plastic waste in their day-to-day life. The Center for International Environmental Law noted that over 99 per cent of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. However, 69 per cent of those surveyed did not recognise that crude oil is used to produce new plastic products, including most textiles for clothing, according to a consumer perception survey by Protein Evolution and Wakefield Research.

Nearly a third of the surveyed adults or 27 per cent believe none of their clothes contain the same raw materials used to manufacture plastic. Yet, the National Institute of Health estimates that nearly 70 per cent of clothing is made with polyester or other plastic-derived fabric.

A massive 98 per cent of Americans overestimate the actual amount of discarded textiles that are recycled, including 30 per cent who believe half or more are recycled. Also, 76 per cent believe it is very or extremely important that companies increase the amount of recycled materials they use to make clothing and apparel, including 82 per cent of parents.

Around 66 per cent would be willing to pay more for clothes made from recycled polyester, including 40 per cent who would pay over $20 more. Overall, 89 per cent of Americans believe that when it comes to reducing plastic waste, everyone has a role to play, including individuals.

Traditional methods used to create virgin plastic or textile goods rely heavily on fossil fuels as feedstock. The existing plastic production process is extremely energy intensive and can result in problematic contaminants for the environment. Even more so, at the end of life, plastic and polyester waste contribute significant methane emissions due to landfilling and incineration in the US.

The textile industry, in particular, is adding 11.3 million tons of polyester waste to landfills or incinerators annually. Today, the industry lacks commercially sufficient technologies to recycle end-of-life textiles into new products. As a result, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that 10 per cent of global emissions are related to the textile industry.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (NB)

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