Expanding recycling will require a local approach

Mike Verespej

Published: September 27, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, Sustainability, Packaging, Recycling

AUSTIN, TEXAS (Sept. 27, 11:50 a.m. ET) — Future increases in recycling materials will come from local and state initiatives, possibly in the form of extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiatives — and not from nationwide endeavors.

And for recycling to grow by leaps and bounds, the different groups involved in recycling will need to cooperate more and look at recycling in a different light.

“The next 15 percentage point increase in recycling will come less from national initiatives, and more from local and state endeavors,” said Matt McKenna, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. “Policy at the federal level has receded as a driver of recycling. But there will be increasing pressure at the state and local level for EPR for specific products.”

“Voluntary or mandated EPR will be on the agenda in several states for years to come because global demand for products won’t change and the participation rates for recycling are not what they should be,” McKenna said at the recent Resource Recycling conference in Austin.

McKenna said KAB will kick off its second national public service campaign to build awareness of the need to recycle in the second or third quarter of 2013.

To increase the amount of people that recycle materials and to increase the amount of materials recycled, it is also critical that all groups interested in advancing recycling cooperate.

“There are a lot of groups that have the common goal of reducing waste and increasing recycling rates,” McKenna said. “We must learn not only to talk to each other, but to talk to people with different viewpoints. We have to build that bridge to increase the recycling rate in America today.”

Mark Lichtenstein, president of the National Recycling Coalition, agreed.

“We are all trying to figure out a different way to do environmental sustainability in this country,” Lichtenstein said. “We have to look at unique financial mechanisms, public-private partnerships and how non-government organizations play a role in this.”

In addition, he said, industry, government, associations and NGOs “have to learn what we need to do differently to educate people.”

“Our approaches to education are not working as effectively as they should,” Lichtenstein said. “We need to find out what we need to do differently to affect consumer behavior.”

But increasing recycling is more than just a matter of greater cooperation and better education, said David Allaway, senior policy analyst in the solid waste program of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Achieving more recycling and motivating more consumers to recycle will require that individuals involved in recycling look at sustainable material management in a new way.

“If we’re going to get deep reductions in environmental impact, we have to have strategies that go beyond recycling,” Allaway said. “We have to understand recycling is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

“And we need to understand that the economic and environmental value of recycling is upstream,” he said. “It is providing industry with feedstocks to replace virgin material and reducing energy use. If we can’t do that, we’re a failure.”

To achieve that, Allaway said everyone involved in recycling needs to understand that “we have to do more than manage the discards. We need to understand under what conditions does recycling serve as a cul-de-sac and under what conditions does it move us forward on the road to sustainability.”

He said there is a need to come up with strategies that can alleviate the environmental impact of materials.

“We are never going to be doing sustainability management properly if we continue to organize around landfill avoidance. We have to stop promoting recycling as landfill avoidance,” Allaway said.

“We have to look at the full impact of materials and every unit of energy used across the entire life cycle to determine actions that can be taken across the entire process,” said Allaway.

“We need to focus on the market side, not the collection,” he added. “If we reorganize recycling around that, we wouldn’t have this problem around recycling.”

“We need more recycling,” said Allaway. “But more importantly, we need better recycling. We need recycling to embrace more than it has in the past. We need it to embrace reuse, prevention, sustainable sourcing and sustainable consumption.”


Comments

Expanding recycling will require a local approach

Mike Verespej

Published: September 27, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Rail improvements also allow rotomolder to improve operations

July 24, 2014 3:10 pm ET

An infrastructure improvement grant from the U.S. Commerce Department is helping an Indiana plastics plant expand its product line and add jobs.    More

Image

Bemis' product strategy paying off with record earnings per share

July 24, 2014 2:56 pm ET

Bemis Co. Inc. is feeling good about itself these days as the flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials firm is posting record earnings per ...    More

PetStar doubles capacity at Mexico recycling facility

July 24, 2014 2:10 pm ET

Mexican recycling giant PetStar SAPI de CV, owned by the System of Coca-Cola Bottlers in Mexico, has doubled the capacity of its facility to 130...    More

Meredian merging with Danimer Scientific

July 24, 2014 1:59 pm ET

Bioplastics maker Meredian Inc. is merging with its sister firm, Danimer Scientific LLC.    More

Image

US Bioplastics receives funding to bring Gatoresin to the market

July 24, 2014 1:44 pm ET

Materials maker U.S. Bioplastics is hoping its Gatoresin product will take a bite out of the bioplastics market, thanks to funding from a state agency...    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events