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South Coast Researcher, Research Team Honored For Startling Findings About Plastics Pollution

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The holidays are over, and maybe you’re trying to get caught up in household chores, like a pile of laundry. You use the last drops from a bottle of liquid detergent. What do you do with the empty bottle? You could recycle it. But, a UC Santa Barbara researcher says only a tiny amount of the plastics we use actually get recycled.

Dr. Roland Geyer is a professor of Industrial Ecology at UCSB who’s been studying the plastic waste problem for years. His research team came up with a startling statistic: 91 percent of plastic waste has never been recycled.

Geyer says one of the keys to the problem is the fact that plastics are so cheap to make, it can actually cost less than recycling. The 91% statistic was a key part of a United Nations report looking at the local single use plastics problem. Some British statisticians feel the number highlights such an important story it was named the “Statistic of the Year” for 2018.

Geyer says it took years of research to come up with the numbers to help quantify the extent of the problem. The researcher says even as they continue to look at the problem, he’s thinking about ways to deal with it.

He says given the economics of making plastics from scratch versus the higher costs of recycling, making it a requirement instead of an option could be the answer.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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