John Oliver Explains How Recycling Is a Sham and Plastics Are Everywhere, Even Inside Us

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John Oliver Explains How Recycling Is a Sham and Plastics Are Everywhere, Even Inside Us

Ready for another weekly dose of John Oliver’s patented feel-good comedy?


So if you didn’t know, recycling is basically a sham perpetuated by the plastics industry to make their work seem less environmentally destructive. Most plastic isn’t even recyclable, and it’s touch-and-go with the stuff that is—assuming it even makes it into a recycling bin instead of a trashcan. (Or the side of the road.) The last 15 years produced as much plastic as the 50 years before it, and since less than 10% of plastics are actually recycled, almost all of that winds up in garbage dumps or in the ocean—where it breaks down into microplastics, gets eaten by fish, and then winds up back on our dinner plates. Suddenly we’re eating a credit card’s worth of microplastics every single week. Thanks for the info, John!

The truth about recycling isn’t some big revelation. If you’ve been paying attention you already know that it’s not the magical solution it’s often portrayed as, and that not everything you put in your curbside recycling bin actually gets recycled. Still, once again John Oliver sums up the whole situation in succinct, direct, and hilarious fashion. The jokes don’t make it any less depressing or infuriating, but hey, at least they’re good jokes. And he puts the blame squarely on the plastics industry itself, tracking how they basically created this crisis through decades of obfuscation and misinformation, and thus should bear the brunt of solving the problems they’ve created. Unless you work in plastics, or head up a company whose business depends on it, it’s hard to argue with Oliver’s conclusions.

Here’s the full segment, if you want to feel really guilty the next time you buy lettuce in a plastic box.