The Recycling Myth

Directed by
Tom Costello and Benedict Wermter

Investigative Documentary


As the plastic pollution crisis has become an international scandal, the biggest consumer goods brands on earth have declared they have a solution: recycling. But our plastic packaging is still more likely to end up being burned or dumped than recycled. We show how the oil, packaging and consumer goods industries spin the recycling fairytale to allow them to continue polluting without consequence. As we all pick up the bill for a world drowning in plastic, the film asks: who is getting rich?

We spent two years doing undercover research. We set up a fake company, complete with website and business cards, contacted waste brokers all over Europe via social networks, spoke to them on burner phones, and finally met some of them.

Our research provides deep insights into a world where million-euro-deals are made via WhatsApp, where containers full of contaminated plastic waste are sent from country to country, and where no one bats an eyelid when plastic packaging from our recycling bins ends up dumped by a roadside somewhere far away.


Premiering on 01 November 2021 on DR in Denmark. 07 November 2021 on SVT in Sweden. 15 November 2021 NRK Norway. Then CBC Canada. Then NHK Japan. Then globally on BBC World. And in Spring on ARD Germany.


Germany 2021 – 52 Min.

Part of the Why Plastic? Series


Thanks to a great team!
Directed by
Tom Costello and Benedict Wermter

Executive Producer:

Mette Hoffmann Meyer, The Why Foundation

Original Idea:

Carsten Stormer

Carlotta Kittel (BFS), Rune Schweitzer (BFS)
Directors of Photography:

Philipp Meise Johannes Praus (BVK)
Additional Photography and Sound:

Tom Costello, Yetha, Remco Bikkers, Oliver Richardt, Christoph Lerch, Tom Haesen, Francis Boyter, Pertemuanta Tarigan, Ikbal Wahyudin, Tony Leonardo, Benedict Wermter, Max Penzel, Shahrin Shukor

Alice Sykes
Field Producers and Research:

Jacqueline Goebel, Ilja Willems, Devianti Faridz, Gökçe Saraçoğlu, David Djambazov, Kajsa Rosenblad, Frank Brunner, Hanna Gieffers, Katarzyna Tuszynska, Christoph Renger
Original Music:

Nils Kacirek
Graphic Design:

Sound Design:

Paul Timmich

André Froelian
Post Production Supervisor:

Hannes Ziegerhofer (BFS)
Assistant Editor:

Luciana Mannucci (BFS)
Production Manager:

Alexandra Obradovic
Legal Advice:

Ralph Graef, Reinhard Höbelt, GRAEF Rechtsanwälte

Rahmat Kurniawan, Gökçe Saraçoğlu, David Djambazov
Archive Researcher:

Bianca Döring

In Co-production with

Produced with the support of the European Broadcasting Union Content Fund
Further support from

DANIDA, The Rogovy Foundation