Recycling’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the winter 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
North Texas NPR affiliate KERA-FM called on Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, to talk about the impact plastics have on the environment.
Novak, a polymer chemist, has been studying plastic materials for more than 30 years. He said that while the versatile properties of plastics make them ubiquitous, their durability also makes recycling a challenge.
“Here’s the dirty little secret about recycling plastics: Of all the recyclable plastics that are collected, only 14 percent are actually put into a recycle stream,” Novak told “All Things Considered” host Justin Martin. “The rest are either burned, end up in our environment or in landfills. That is staggering, and I think heartbreaking to conscientious consumers out there that take the time to clean and dispose of the recycles in a very important way.”
Listen to the interview.
Dr. Bruce Novak (left) speaks with radio host Justin Martin.