Why Have We All Been Recycling Plastic For 30 Years? : Planet Money Recycling plastic has never worked very well. So who convinced us this was a good idea? In this episode, we might have the answer. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Waste Land

Waste Land

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/912150085/1198961089" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Plastic piles up at Garten Services in Salem, Oregon. Laura Sullivan/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Laura Sullivan/NPR

Plastic piles up at Garten Services in Salem, Oregon.

Laura Sullivan/NPR

Last year, Planet Money ran a show about why it doesn't make sense economically and, heartbreakingly, even environmentally to recycle plastic. But if recycling most plastic is not working now — and if it didn't work 30 years ago when the numbers and arrows first popped up — did it ever work? And why did it take us so long to learn the truth? In this episode, NPR reporter Laura Sullivan, with the support of PBS's Frontline, sets out to find out who is responsible.

And what she finds is a paper trail — crinkled-up documents (that apparently did not get recycled) long forgotten in old boxes. And the trail leads, well, to a guy on a beach in Florida.

Music: "Show Me the Way" and "Light the Fire Up."

Find us: Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/TikTok

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and NPR One.

Only fresh economics content when you subscribe to our weekly newsletter.