November 15, 2023

The Hard Truths of Plastics Recycling and What Seventh Generation is Doing About It

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November 15 is National Recycling Day. 


Originally founded as a day to promote all types of recycling, let’s take this opportunity to explore the hard truths of plastics recycling, and what Seventh Generation is doing about it. 


We all know there’s a global plastic waste problem. Single-use plastics–straws, cups, bags and more– litter our waterways, oceans and beaches, and microplastics accumulate in our bodies.  


Despite all our best efforts – with increased environmental awareness and widely available recycling programs – less than 10% of all plastic gets recycled. The numbers are worse in the United States, with about 5% of plastic in the waste stream getting recycled. 


What you might not know, is that plastic is made from fossil fuels, specifically from oil.  And despite clear agreement from climate scientists that we must move away from fossil fuels in order to have a safe climate, the petrochemical industry (where plastic comes from) is expanding.  Experts predict that by 2050, the petrochemical industry will make up 50% of all oil demand. More than half of all plastic ever made in the world has been created since 2020. 


Since all plastic comes from oil and gas, the high demand for plastics props up the fossil fuel industry, creates toxic air pollution, and contributes to climate change.  


At Seventh Generation, we’re working hard to address our plastic use in three ways: 

  • Decreasing the use of virgin plastics, e.g. in 2022 we moved all our HDPE liquid laundry bottles to 100% post-consumer recycled plastic packaging. 

  • Reducing the amount of plastic in our packaging, e.g. concentrating our products and offering refills. 

  • Improving the recyclability of the plastics we do use, e.g. for our 50 oz concentrated laundry detergent, in 2023 we partnered with our suppliers to develop a new plastic liner in our paperboard sleeve that can be recycled at home rather than in-store. 


We know we have a long way to go, and Seventh Generation is committed to doing more to reduce plastic use and ensure recyclability of existing plastic. We can work together to end our reliance on fossil fuels for a safer climate and healthier future for our families.