John Oliver is a master explainer of complicated issues who focused on plastic recycling in Sunday’s installment of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. Much of the information will not be new to you, Earthlings. We endorse his call for extended producer responsibility laws in the United States, which will require companies to recover the products and packaging they sell.

The other critical action needed is investment in research and development to deliver biodegradable plant-based alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. There is no reason that an industry that sprang up using oil as its primary material over the past 70 years cannot change its practices. The problem is that there is not enough effort to find a way forward. The proof? It hasn’t happened yet. While industries all across the economy are being disrupted regularly by upstart technologies, plastic has stayed comfortably ensconced in its petrochemical partnership.

Watch and enjoy — even though it’s not enjoyable to hear this truth. Then, savor the fact that in 2021 the dialogue on plastic recycling is finally going mainstream.

Please be aware that Last Week Tonight features mature language. This video is not recommended for children.

By Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch is the publisher at and Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Intentional Futures, an insight-to-impact consultancy in Seattle. A veteran tech journalist, Mitch is passionate about helping people understand sustainability and the impact of their decisions on the planet.