Covid-19 trashed the recycling dream

Rising demand for plastic goods, lower cost of new plastic made by oil sector cited as reasons

Mr Richard Pontillas resting in his family-owned "sari-sari" or provision shop in Quezon City, the Philippines, in August. The liquid goods he sells used to be packaged in glass, but now he stocks them in plastic sachets. Employees sorting plastic bo
Employees sorting plastic bottles at the Weeco plastic recycling factory in the Athi River industrial zone near Nairobi, Kenya, last year. Since Covid-19, even drink bottles made of recycled plastic have become less viable. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Richard Pontillas resting in his family-owned "sari-sari" or provision shop in Quezon City, the Philippines, in August. The liquid goods he sells used to be packaged in glass, but now he stocks them in plastic sachets. Employees sorting plastic bo
Mr Richard Pontillas resting in his family-owned "sari-sari" or provision shop in Quezon City, the Philippines, in August. The liquid goods he sells used to be packaged in glass, but now he stocks them in plastic sachets. Employees sorting plastic bottles at the Weeco plastic recycling factory in the Athi River industrial zone near Nairobi, Kenya, last year. Since Covid-19, even drink bottles made of recycled plastic have become less viable. PHOTO: REUTERS
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The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rush for plastic.

From Wuhan to New York, demand for face shields, gloves, takeaway food containers and bubble wrap for online shopping has surged. Since most of these cannot be recycled, so has the waste.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2020, with the headline Covid-19 trashed the recycling dream. Subscribe