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Shocking Scam You Didn’t Know About Plastic Recycling

Updated: Jun 2



The Smart Psychological Design Scam


Your brain can be tricked ever so easily in this fast-moving and attention-hogging society. And now more than ever, industries will use every dirty trick they can possibly think of to get what they want. In fact, they’ll have dedicated teams designed to do exactly that.

Let’s start at the beginning. Growing up, you probably saw this sign somewhere or were taught about it at school.




This is the recycling symbol. Easily one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols worldwide.

On a visual level, its circular nature represents a closed system, an equilibrium of how nature manifolds itself. Simply put, how things should be. The symbol was originally designed by Gary Anderson way back in 1970 at a design competition held by the Container Corporation of America which asked students to create a symbol for recycled paper. Out of over 500 contestants from all over the country, Anderson’s design was chosen. It didn’t take long after that for it to go mainstream and become a worldwide standard.


It’s no surprise that the wide use of this symbol that’s been around for decades has an embedded psychological meaning to us modern-day chimps. At least in developed economies and most developing ones. One look and you know it’s something to do with recycling or waste management.

Here’s where someone figured just that early on and used that perfectly to their advantage.

You guessed it, the Plastic Industry!


After concluding that it would not be cost-effective to recycle plastics and way cheaper to just produce and sell new plastics (due to cheap fossil fuels), the industry had to do something to stop all the hatred from people.

They wanted to make people believe that plastics could be recycled and that if we continued to use them they would pose no threat to the environment.

And just like that, using smart design and psychology to their advantage, in the year 1988 the Resin Identification Code was born.




This is NOT a recycling symbol. It’s called a resin identification code, and just as the name suggests, it's used to identify what type of plastic the product is made from. That’s it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the product can be recycled.


There are several types of plastics each having its unique number in the coding system. The goal was to make the symbol similar to Anderson’s design so that people would mistake it for the recycling symbol. And it worked!

They even went as far as referring to it as the “Plastic Recycling Symbol” off paper and making the arrows Green.




The plastic industry soon lobbied to pass a law that would make it compulsory for all plastic products to have the resin identification code claiming it would help segregate the waste based on resin types which would make it easier to recycle.


Out of the 7 codes, only the first 2 can barely be recycled. And even then, less than 10% of those are recycled. Modern-day recycling facilities won’t even accept the other types as it can halt their entire production line.

A recent survey from mid-2019 released by Consumer Action found that a whopping 58% of adult Americans still believe that plastic is a recyclable material.


The motives were clear, and phycology did its trick. The protests against plastic industries stopped back then, and with the help of the exploding fossil fuel industry, things were never the same again.


Here’s a short video explaining the same so you can share it with your friends who don’t like to read:



Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more such content coming soon on Qizaa!!

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