Education Initiative of the Year: Global Recycling Day
24 official events, global events witnessed by 10,000 people, 10.5 million social media impressions.
11,700 signatures requesting UN recognition.
As climate change becomes more urgent, Global Recycling Day will help raise this core environmental act to a new level.
The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) was founded 70 years ago on March 18, 1948. Appropriately, BIR held its inaugural Global Recycling Day on March 18 of this year, and the organization has reserved that date for future ones to come.
The initiative is still quite new, but it gained significant traction with those who recognized it as one of the largest, most comprehensive global recycling education initiatives. BIR aims to have people adopt the organization's view of recycling as the world's "seventh resource," along with air, water, coal, oil, natural gas and minerals.
BIR views climate change as a major, universal issue, and the Global Recycling Day initiative highlights the significant role recycling plays in mitigating the pending effects. Climate change is "a growing crisis [within] economic, health and safety, food production, security and other dimensions," said BIR president and Global Recycling Day founder Ranjit S. Baxi via email. "Therefore, it is imperative to promote a sustainable solution, which will turn this challenge into an opportunity."
Global Recycling Day's primary goals are to educate people about the importance of recycling and unite the world's approach to recycling. BIR seeks to reach a wide audience with the effort, including individuals, businesses and leaders at all levels. Two key messages coming out of the initiative are that people should think of materials as resources and not waste, and that recycling should be considered a global, unified issue.
"The recycling industry saves over 700 million tons of CO2 emissions each year, provides jobs for millions globally and is projected to add over $400 billion to the global economy and help meet several of the UN’s [Sustainable Development Goals]," Baxi said. "So, it is only right that recycling takes center stage globally and is included in future climate change discussions."
The educational campaign aims to even out various countries' recycling knowledge and offer recommendations for filling policy gaps. For example, Baxi notes that some parts of the world, such as Europe, have taken the lead with setting ambitious recycling goals. But in other areas, such as parts of Africa and Asia, "recycling is less entrenched in everyday life, and much work remains to be done, particularly in terms of education and recycling infrastructure and legislation."
The initiative presents seven commitments for world leaders, including boosting free, sustainable international trade for recyclable materials; agreeing to common recycling definitions and messaging; and working with industry to encourage product and packaging designs with recycling in mind. Similarly, seven questions for residents and communities encourage them to examine their commitments to reducing waste and participating in recycling programs.
In addition to many unofficial events, two dozen official Global Recycling Day events took place around the world this year, including lectures, public space litter clean-ups, interactive childhood education, soccer matches and ocean waste-based art making. Altogether, more than 11,700 people have signed a petition requesting that the United Nations include Global Recycling Day on its official list of awareness days.
In October, BIR launched the Global Recycling Foundation as a direct result of Global Recycling Day's success. The foundation will operate separately, using partner funds and donations to devise promotional and educational campaigns that showcase recycling as a path toward a sustainable future. It also has provided nine key goals for improved recycling practices.
The foundation's biggest activity thus far will be supporting Global Recycling Day 2019, the theme of which will be “Recycling into the Future.” The action day will put a heavy emphasis on youth-focused initiatives and participation. Announcements on further activities are forthcoming, but the overarching message of boosting recycling knowledge, program participation and global standards remains the same.
"Everybody involved in the climate change discussion must simply start to recognize the huge untapped potential of recycling as a green partner," Baxi said.
Follow Katie Pyzyk on Twitter