From the archives: A recent PBS FRONTLINE program produced in collaboration with NPR and IRW examined the ballooning plastic waste worldwide and what industry experts knew from the outset what was and wasn’t possible to recycle.

By Workshop staff

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Coverage of environmental issues and environmental inequities have been a hallmark of IRW for years. Most recently:

FRONTLINE and NPR, in a co-production with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, teamed up over seven months to examine the crisis in plastic waste in the environment.

The result: “Plastic Wars,” a 2020 one-hour program:

The producers found that despite efforts to reduce the use of plastic, the industry is scaling up new production and promoting a familiar solution: recycling. But it’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever been recycled.

Writer-director Rick Young, correspondent and reporter Laura Sullivan, co-producer and reporter Emma Schwartz, co-producer Fritz Kramer and IRW-FRONTLINE Fellow Orion Donovan-Smith revealed how plastic makers for decades have publicly promoted recycling, despite privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable.

[For other environmental coverage: Read more IRW air and water investigations, including deep studies of problems in Louisiana, Florida and California.]