The Economist ( Mar 3rd, 2018 ) has touched a subject such as plastic which is one size too large.
Their article represents a superficial assessment without actually going to the depth of the sensitive subject.
Plastics are the lifeline of the economy. Each and every petroleum producer manufactures Gigatons of plastic granules each year.
To blame countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China, alone, is the easy approach. Petroleum companies are all in the big game of plastics for Gigabucks.
Recycling plastics is no solution as plastic polymers deteriorate substantially during the recycling (re-heating) process. To recycle plastics is one of the most expensive processes, using lots of energy and manpower.
Re-use of recycling plastic granules is limited, in practical usage manufacturers can’t add more than 10 percent. 90 percent will still come in form of virgin material ( non-recycled polymers ).
More than 10 percent will produce substandard products – loss of tensile strength, UV deterioration, etc..
Recycling alone is NO option, use of a biodegradable form of new plastics is. ( Shopping bags, etc. )
Not all applications are suitable for bio degradable plastics though.
Until the rest has been found, I am afraid nothing can stop the plastic manufacturers speak petroleum companies.
Some extract of relevant publications :
Giga millions of tiny plastic pellets, called nurdles – (the raw materials for the plastic industry) – are spilled every year, most of them finding their way into the sea. Acting as chemical sponges, soaking up other toxic man-made chemicals – (artificial) pollutants (for toxicity think DDT, pesticides etc), concentrating them up to a million times more than in normal sea water. Horrific it sounds indeed. It is because of the facts that I consider the article of the Economist superficial, and only partially relevant. As usual – blame is shifted to the poor countries.