America Recycles Day marked its 25th anniversary on Tuesday, during a time when the recycling sector continues to see heightened interest and investment.
What started as an effort to encourage the “buy recycled” movement and educate consumers about recycling systems has evolved over the years to also become a day for notable recycling updates and announcements. Waste Dive has compiled some of the week’s news from federal, state, corporate and nonprofit sources.
- The U.S. EPA announced that applications are now open for state, local and tribal governments to access $375 million in grant funding for materials management programs and education efforts. The funding programs were established by the 2021 infrastructure law. The agency also launched a new model recycling program toolkit.
- President Joe Biden continued a tradition of annual proclamations dating back to at least 1999, calling on U.S. residents to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost their waste. Similar to the administration’s 2021 proclamation, this year’s message included themes around climate change and environmental justice for “people of color and low‑income Americans, who are more likely to live near landfills and other waste processing plants.” Biden also called on “all manufacturers and corporations to do their part to improve the reusability and recyclability of the products they sell and to reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging they use.”
- Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a cofounder of the Senate Recycling Caucus, reiterated calls to enact the pending Recycling and Composting Accountability Act and Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act. Both bills passed the Senate unanimously in July. “I hope my colleagues in the House will seize the opportunity before them and work to pass our commonsense recycling legislation,” he said in a statement.
- Colorado’s municipal waste diversion rate stood at 16% in 2021, according to a new report released by nonprofit recycler Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. Roughly 95% of the total material landfilled could have been recycled or composted, the report states. “We aren't where we want to be yet,” said Gov. Jared Polis during a virtual event. Supporters believe Colorado is finally poised for a major breakthrough in light of Polis signing the nation’s third state-level extended producer responsibility law for packaging earlier this year. City representatives discussed how funds raised by an EPR program will help offset challenges like transporting waste from hard-to-access mountain towns and competing with low tip fees.
- California’s statewide recycling rate declined to 40% in 2021, down from 42% the year before, according to preliminary data released by CalRecycle on Tuesday. Californians disposed of about 46 million tons of waste in 2021, up from 44.9 million tons the previous year. However, the state is getting better at diverting organics from disposal, the agency reported. About 11.3 million tons of organics were disposed in 2021 compared with almost 13.4 million tons the last time the state conducted a landfill study in 2018.
- South Carolina reported a 23.9% state recycling rate from July 2020 through June 2021. This totaled an estimated 1.2 million tons of material, with 45% coming from residents. “Numbers across the nation and here in South Carolina show that people are increasing their recycling efforts more and more each year,” said Myra Reece, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s environmental affairs director, in a statement.
- Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control relaunched its online Recyclopedia, which now allows residents to search recycling rules for more than 375 common items on a variety of devices.
Corporate and nonprofit
- Closed Loop Partners announced the launch of a new private recycling company, Circular Services, that combines multiple existing operations within its portfolio. Brookfield Renewables has committed up to $700 million in investment. The company will offer a range of services to recycle packaging, organics, textiles and electronics.
- WM announced a “strategic investment” in Canada-based textile recycler Debrand, as well as a new curbside film recycling pilot being launched in the Chicago-area through a partnership with Dow. The company also announced plans for a new $75 million MRF in Florida.
- Republic Services recently released results from a survey of more than 2,000 consumers that found the most commonly recycled plastic products in that group were water bottles, milk jugs and detergent jugs. Around two-thirds of respondents said they knew what plastics could be recycled, but 61% “incorrectly believe flexible plastics, including grocery bags and bubble wrap, are recyclable in their curbside bins.”
- The Recycling Partnership released a five-point plan to “fix recycling,” building on prior recommendations. Elements of the plan include expanding access, helping the public better understanding recycling rules, making packaging more recyclable, supporting policies that can fund recycling and increasing investment for future infrastructure.
- The American Chemistry Council released a report on the potential of secondary MRFs, prepared by Titus MRF Services after tests with multiple Northeast facilities. According to the report, “advanced sortation” could capture more than 50% of the material currently heading to disposal. The most common materials not being captured in sorting by regional MRFs, in order of tonnage, include mixed paper, polypropylene, PET, polyethylene, polystyrene, cardboard and cartons.
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Reporting contributed by Maria Rachal
This piece has been updated to include information about a new WM MRF in Florida.