Company of the Year: The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership
31 funding partners that include some of the largest corporations and trade associations in the recycling world.
Multiple major new corporate funding partners and education programs in Denver, Chicago and Atlanta.
The Recycling Partnership is on track to expand its role as one of the top national nonprofits and plans to help build more regional networks.
In an industry that is both hyper-local and globally dependent, The Recycling Partnership has become a key national convener.
Born out of the Curbside Value Partnership, which was launched in 2003, this national nonprofit has rapidly grown over the past three-and-a-half years under CEO Keefe Harrison's leadership to become an inescapable force. With funding from more than 30 private sector partners, plus grants, The Recycling Partnership is now seen by many as the go-to source for local governments interested in elevating their programs.
That could mean funding for a transition to curbside carts. Or data-driven contamination research projects that have become a model in multiple states. Or help with educational materials. Or a custom-made program to highlight action on specific items. Recently, it has even meant delivering some of the most high-level insight about China's recycling import policies. All of this is organized through the lens of a full supply-chain perspective, one that seeks to promote mutual understanding among product designers, manufacturers, service providers, MRFs, local governments and residents.
$27M infrastructure investment
500+ communities assisted
26M households reached
400K+ new carts
57.5K tons diverted
In a competitive business — one that has professionals with plenty of conflicting opinions — The Recycling Partnership inspires a level of mutual agreement usually reserved for topics such as the importance of safety and a general belief in the value of recycling itself. In multiple interviews, corporate partners lauded the ability to collect data that "no one else has" and said the achievements so far were already "more than we could ever do alone." A state-level partner, who like many people started collaborating after meeting Harrison at a conference, said her agency "could not have done it without them."
Throughout all of these conversations, the quality of The Recycling Partnership's staff was by far the most common theme. At the city and county level, where resources are often tight, the help was described as particularly game-changing. The accolades flowed unprompted: “Best and brightest in the recycling space," "dynamic," "great to work with," "competent," "energetic," "really quite remarkable," "accessible," “the smartest but also most fun people." As one summed it up, this team is seen as the "whole package."
All of this is attributed to The Recycling Partnership's success in facilitating discussions or, as one city recycling coordinator put it, serving as "a bridge between what can be effectively implemented locally in regards to waste diversion and what could be happening on a national level."
Harrison is well aware of the hunger for someone to fill that national funding and guidance gap. She attributes all of this success to a staff that she's "so enthralled with" and has been struck by the fact that her organization's "human capital," not just its funding, is what's in highest demand.
Next up for 2018 is a closer focus on regional solutions with statewide education to keep filling in those gaps. The Recycling Partnership is also part of a broader effort to increase demand pull for recycled content and clean up material going into single-stream carts.
"We are completely scalable," said Harrison. "It's going to take a lot to overhaul the U.S. recycling system and we're set on doing it."
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