This animation from Greenpeace UK offers an amusing impression of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sputtering platitudes about recycling while plastic bottles, boxes and other trash falls like rain and piles up around him. Just when you think it's getting a bit too silly, the kicker comes.
What's the UK government's plastic policy? Dump it on other countries! Less than 10% of our plastic recycling is actually recycled in the UK. The rest is sent overseas where it's often burned or dumped, fuelling health and wildlife emergencies.
Recycling was (and is) the key greenwashing drug fed to the liberal middle class. It's a many-faceted gem of negative consequences. It emphasized that individual consumers were the problem, not industrial producers. It externalized the job of tackling pollution to people in their homes. It created a world of costly infrastructure, from special trashcans to recycling centers, that is vestigial in many places now that there's no buyer for what was always, in truth, just trash. And there's no guarantee that the resentment and reaction generated by people finding out it's bullshit will go in a constructive direction. Banning the manufacture of single-use plastics is but a first step.