Bloomberg Green | Bloomberg News, 2023
Bloomberg Green and Bloomberg News exposed the failures of plastic recycling.
Their reporting revealed that many plastic items we put in our recycling bins likely aren’t recycled at all.
Instead, the waste ends up being shipped to underdeveloped countries – much of it to the Global South – where the refuse creates serious health problems for residents and exacerbates an already overwhelming environmental crisis.
In their months-long investigation spanning four continents, Bloomberg journalists reconstructed the journeys recyclable plastic takes by using small electronic trackers placed inside items of trash. They watched as the trackers pinged their locations over weeks and months. In Turkey, their reporting prompted a social media outcry when the team’s work revealed that plastic trash from a U.K. grocery chain had been shipped to the country and was being burned there.
The reporters discovered a complex network of middlemen, waste brokers and high-profile, industry-influenced initiatives that result in little actual plastic recycling.
Their reporting shows that the network provides cover for multi-billion-dollar corporations that are adding each year to the globe’s massive glut of plastic, creating the illusion for consumers that their good-intentioned recycling habits are effective.
The Bloomberg project included data visualization that demonstrates how plastic is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The team also affirmed the point of view of environmental advocates who say recycling by itself can’t address the plastic waste crisis. Some types of plastic, they reported, are so difficult and costly to recycle that the economics don’t work.
Bloomberg journalists interviewed a New York woman who was shocked to learn an envelope bearing her name ended up in an illegal dump in India. They told other human-interest stories as well, including that of a man in Thailand who was forced to move from his home out of fear for his health when a recycling plant began operations nearby.
The Bloomberg project is an example of the finest in environmental reporting, providing an in-depth, thorough examination of one of the globe’s most serious environmental threats.
For the first time, Excellence in Environmental Reporting is named in honor of Edward W. “Ted” Scripps II. Early in his career, Ted worked as a reporter for United Press and Scripps Howard newspapers in Denver and San Francisco. Ted also served as a vice president and secretary of The E.W. Scripps Company. He was a conservationist with interests in environmental issues and changing technologies in the communications industry.