The recycling industry in the US last year transformed more than 130 million metric tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, rubber and electronics into commodities for use in new products, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a recycling industry trade group.
Recycling conserves limited natural resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by saving the amount of energy needed to manufacture every-day products. It also contributes to the nation’s economy.
America’s recycling and reuse activities accounted for 757,000 jobs, produced $36.6 billion in wages and generated $6.7 billion in tax revenues in 2007, based on the most recent census data. This equates to 1.57 jobs for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled.
Yesterday was America Recycles Day, an initiative of Keep America Beautiful that happens every year on Nov. 15. As such, businesses and industry groups are teaming up and announcing new efforts to increase recycling. Here are some of them.
LEED green building certification founder Rob Watson has founded a new standard for the waste industry, Waste Dive reports. The Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Protocol (SWEEP) is still in the early stages of development but it aims to “provide a set of comprehensive performance standards to support the efforts of communities and the waste industry to promote continuous improvement towards a zero waste society,” according to the SWEEP website. The Northeast Resource Recovery Association and a steering committee with members from Waste Management, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Austin Resource Recovery, Waste Business Journal and BlueGreen Alliance are working on the details.
The EPA and the American Chemistry Council have partnered to promote sustainable materials management for plastics to reduce environmental impacts and waste. The EPA and the ACC say they will work to:
- Decrease disposal rates by tracking and lowering the overall amount of plastics disposed through activities that enable source reduction, reuse, recycling and prevention.
- Reduce environmental impacts — including greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy use — of plastics throughout their life cycles.
- Increase stakeholder capacity to implement sustainable materials management through technical assistance and raising the per capita quantity of plastic recyclables recovered.
Through the partnership, the EPA also joins the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) campaign, a public-private initiative with the goal of increasing the volume of plastic film through public education and sharing tools and best practices such as store drop-off programs.
In a related effort to increase plastics recycling in the US and Canada, a group of trade associations and nonprofits have formed the North American Plastics Recycling Alliance (NAPRA). NAPRA represents the full plastics and recycling value chain from resin manufacturers and processors to brand owners and recyclers. The founding organizations are: American Chemistry Council, American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, Association of Plastic Recyclers, Canadian Plastics Industry Association, Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico, Carpet America Recovery Effort, Foodservice Packaging Institute, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Keep America Beautiful, National Association for PET Container Resources, National Waste and Recycling Association, Packaging Consortium (PAC), Recycling Partnership, SPI – The Plastics Industry Trade Association, Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and Vinyl Institute (VI).
The Coca-Cola Foundation and Keep America Beautiful said they will award 62 grants to communities in 30 states to make recycling bins more readily available and convenient. In total, the program will provide 3,522 recycling bins to colleges and universities, along with 996 bins to local governments and nonprofit organizations. The recycling bins are funded through a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Coca-Cola Company.
Seven Cox Enterprises’ locations have achieved zero waste to landfill status through a variety of different waste management efforts. In Arizona, for example, Cox Communications implemented Project TWIG (turning waste into growth) to sell its used materials and donate the funds to local youth-focused nonprofits. Cox’s corporate campus in Atlanta repurposes food and paper products from the dining facility into a soil amendment, which is used for landscaping to improve plant growth. And earlier this year, Cox announced it is constructing the Golden Isles Conservation Center in Nahunta, Georgia. The facility will remove tires from the waste stream, repurpose them and generate clean energy.
The seven zero waste to landfill locations are: Cox Communications in Harahan, Louisiana; Cox Communications in Phoenix, Arizona; Cox Media Group’s Print Technology Center in Franklin, Ohio; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s N. Fulton Distribution Center in Alpharetta, Georgia; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Printing Facility in Norcross, Georgia; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Stone Mountain Distribution Center in Stone Mountain, Georgia; and Xtime’s Headquarters in Redwood City, California.