Gnarly Truth #1

Less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled each year. Only 9% of global plastic waste has ever been recycled. (source)

Opt for more recyclable materials, like metals and paper, over ANY form of plastic (even the recyclable kind!) if given the opportunity.

Gnarly Truth #2

Throughout the 80’s, the plastics industry lobbied 40 states to put the recycling triangle symbol on all plastic – even if it wasn’t recyclable. As recent as 2020, a Greenpeace report found that many U.S. products labeled as recyclable could not actually be processed by most domestic material recovery facilities. (source)

Don't assume! Familiarize yourself with the exact plastics your curbside and/or local programs can recycle. Don't inherently trust a "recyclable" symbol.

Gnarly Truth #3

Biodegradable and oxo-biodegradable plastics have no clear standards for how quickly they break down, under what conditions, and into what components. (source)

Double check that anything labeled "biodegradable" also has available information on how long it takes to fully biodegrade, and how to properly dispose of it before purchase.

Photo: Doug Beckers

Gnarly Truth #4

Only 59 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside recycling, which amounts to a total count of around 69.8 million homes. (source)

Confirm your own neighborhood's recycling plan. Does it offer robust recycling and composting? If not, consider encouraging neighbors to go in a hired waste management program that offers recycling or, better yet, if you don’t have curbside recycling or a drop-off location in your community, talk to your town council or county commissioners.

Gnarly Truth #5

Despite only representing 5% of the world population, the U.S. generates more waste than any other country in the world. (source)

Reduce, down to zero, the sales and purchase of single-use plastic.

Gnarly Truth #6

It takes plastic, on average, 1,000 years to break down. (source)

Glass & metal can take even longer to break down, so our surest solution is to opt for reusable materials with a high recycling rate, and aim to keep as much waste out of landsfills as possible.

Gnarly Truth #7

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050. (source)

Shrinking our carbon footprint will take more than just recycling. It will also take massive efforts to reduce consumption and minimize waste from the offset.

Photo Credit: Corey Seeman

Gnarly Truth #8

Curbside recycling in the U.S. currently recovers only 32% of available recyclables in single-family homes. (source)

Read labels and check your curbside program! Not everything can be handled by curbside, which means some packaging and materials need to be taken to a more robust recycling center.

Photo: Dave Croker

Gnarly Truth #9

Single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are placed into the same bin, has made recycling easier for consumers, but results in about one-quarter of the material being contaminated. (source)

WHAT CAN WE DO? Double check what can actually be sorted in your single-stream curbside program. If unsure, it's better to leave the item out vs contaminate the entire bin.

Photo Credit: Kristian Bjornard

Gnarly Truth #10

The majority of “compostable” packaging is only capable of breaking down in an industrial facility. Only a minority of compostable plastics can actually decompose in a home environment. (source)

Avoid assuming "compostable" means a material can simply be thrown in your backyard compost pile. Reach out to companies asking for clarification on compostability, and assurance that the packaging will truly compost in a reasonable amount of time without causing damage to the environment by releasing destructive chemicals or distributing microplastics.

Photo Credit: Ckgurney, CC

Gnarly Truth #11

In 2016, the U.S. exported 16 million tons of plastic, paper and metals to China. In actuality, 30 percent of these mixed recyclables were ultimately contaminated by non-recyclable material, were never recycled, and ended up polluting China’s countryside and oceans. (source)

Recyclers should be sure to check what's NOT recyclable in their own curbside and follow up with the processes outlined by their neighborhood recycling management. But most importantly, reducing all waste (both recyclable and non) will be most impactful.

Photo from PxHere

Gnarly Truth #12

Experts estimate that 20 to 70 percent of plastic intended for recycling overseas is unusable and is ultimately discarded. The U.S. still ships over 1 million metric tons a year of plastic waste abroad, often to countries already overwhelmed by it. Experts estimate that 20 to 70 percent of plastic intended for recycling overseas is unusable and is ultimately discarded. One study found that the plastic waste exported to Southeast Asia resulted in contaminated water, crop death, respiratory illnesses due to toxic fumes from incineration, and organized crime. (source)

Before tossing it in the recycling bin, double check if that recycling symbol is truly accurate. Then, create an action plan to reduce plastic use in your home entirely.

Photo from PxHere

Gnarly Truth #13

Research has found that 94% of Americans support recycling and 74% say it should be a top priority. But only about 35% of people actually recycle. The top reason Americans say they don’t recycle regularly is a lack of convenient access. (source)

Encourage and advocate for access not just in your own home, but in public spaces. If there isn't easy access to recycling, don't revert to trash - take the extra steps to get the waste in the right receptacle, even if it means taking it with you.

Photo from PxHere

Gnarly Truth #14

Packaging waste accounts for 25% of all waste created each year in the USA. Plastic packaging and containers account for 40 percent of global plastic produced. In 2018 and in the USA alone, we produced 14.5 million tons of plastic. (source)

Opt for plastic-free packaging wherever possible. Other solutions include paper, metals, and recyclable/biodegradable fibers (fabrics).

Picture from PxHere

Gnarly Truth #15

There are a variety of items – including dirty pizza boxes, old clothing, hangers, plastic bags, aerosols, batteries and electronics – that, if added to a residential recycling bin, will contaminate the entire batch of recyclables. (source)

In some cities, items like used pizza boxes ARE accepted, which means it's on the end consumer to know exactly which recyclables are accepted in their bins.

Gnarly Truth #16

Plastic can be recycled only 2-3 times in its life cycle before turning into microplastics. (source)

Opt for paper, glass, or metals wherever possible. Paper can be recycled 5-7 times, and metal and glass can both be recycled infinitely. (Be sure to make sure all glass, metal, and papers are free from food remains before tossing them into curbside!)

Gnarly Truth #17

America generates 34.5M tons of plastic waste each year. Enough to fill the Houston Astrodome 1000 times. (source)

There's no short, easy answer to solving the plastic export problem - which is why Step #1 is understanding that it's a profitable business model, and Step #2 advocating for the solutions that cause the least harm to the U.S. and surrounding countries who are receiving our trash. Read more on the profit behind plastics HERE.

Photo: Myat T. Aung, CC BY-SA 4.0 ,via Wikimedia Commons

Gnarly Truth #18

If global e-commerce doesn’t change its behavior, we can expect to see 4.53 billion pounds of plastic packaging waste by 2025. (source)

WHAT CAN WE DO? Change our habits, but also, more importantly, hold e-commerce businesses accountable for the waste their products and packaging create.

Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

Gnarly Truth #19

There will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year! (source)

It isn't enough to simply recycle plastic when we know too much of it is being created. Businesses and consumers must reduce plastic usage from the start by opting for alternative materials with higher durability and recyclability rates - our oceans are counting on a reduction of waste overall.

Photo: MichaelisScientists, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Gnarly's Commitment to Packaging Change:

  • All tubs transitioned from plastic to steel by 2022
  • Plastic scoops removed by 2025
  • Climate Neutral Certified by 2023
  • 1% for the Planet Commitment starting in 2023
  • Alternative for recyclable bag packaging by 2025