[Not Quite Healthy] State Of Curbside Recycling

The Recycling Partnership (TRP) released the 2020 State of Curbside Recycling Report in mid-February, and the state of the recycling “union” is not great — although the potential to reverse that is more promising. More than 20 million tons of curbside recyclable materials are disposed annually, notes the report. Curbside recycling in the U.S. currently recovers only 32% of available recyclables in single-family homes. Only half of Americans have automatic access to curbside recycling, some who have access do not participate, and not all who participate do so fully. Many communities are increasingly paying more to send materials to a MRF than the landfill and many programs lack critical operating funds.

State Of Curbside Recycling

Image courtesy of The Recycling Partnership

What is interesting about TRP’s report is its framing of solutions in the context of the circular economy versus, for example, municipal waste management. “To help curbside

recycling in the U.S. take the next steps in its singular purpose of capturing an estimated 37.4 million tons of commodities to feed a circular economy, it must be viewed as a system in which the application of common, broad interventions can help it achieve its full potential,” states the Introduction. “Currently, the U.S. curbside recycling system is successfully capturing an estimated 11.9 million tons, or only about 32% of that 37.4 million tons. To create a higher functioning system, three essential elements — curbside access, participation, and participant capture behavior — must receive focused attention. “

Adds TRP’s CEO Keefe Harrison: “This is an important point in time to pivot our society’s current make-to-waste approach to a more circular economy — one that focuses on everything from smart chemistry and design, production, all the way through to reuse and recycling.”

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