An MIT researcher says we should trash all our recyclable plastic, and he’s probably right

He argues we should spend our “mental budget for thinking about the Earth on more high-impact changes”


Just 40 years ago, the idea of garbage handlers going door to door, picking up recyclable items like cans, paper, and plastic, and shipping them off to be repurposed, was a twinkle in America’s eye.

Woodbury, New Jersey, pioneered the nation’s first curbside recycling system, when, in 1980, garbage collectors started towing a trailer for reusable household waste, MIT researcher Andrew McAfee explains in his new book, “More From Less.”

It’s a rosy look at how capitalism and tech progress (along with robust regulations) have perhaps made people in the US better stewards of the planet by allowing us to reduce consumption while growing economically.

In his book, McAfee calls metal recycling “great, since it gives us cheaper metal products and reduces total greenhouse-gas emissions.” He’s also on board with paper recycling. But he vehemently believes Americans should trash plastic waste by burying it underground in well-managed “modern” landfills.

He thinks attempting to sort plastic recycling is ultimately a waste of time and energy, and his point may be worth considering.

“The notion that disposing of trash in 2019 is environmentally unsound? I just don’t buy that,” he told Insider.

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