- A new study commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) found that 92% of the U.S. population has access to recycling programs for PET bottles, jugs or jars, followed closely by the same percentage for aluminum beverage cans. For both material types this broke down to 68% through curbside collection—including opt-in and subscription programs—and 24% through drop-off programs.
- Findings also showed that programs for glass beverage bottle recycling were available to 81% of the population and carton recycling was available to 55%.
- The study was conducted by Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling Associates, and sponsored by a range of industry trade groups.
While this study showed good progress for major material categories, it also showed the limitations of certain program types. Across all material categories, only 37% of people with access to opt-in and 30% of people with access to subscription participated in these programs. The numbers also showed that even for PET—the most commonly accepted material type—more than 24 million people in the country still don't have a direct way to recycle it.
"The more convenient we can make recycling for consumers, the more people will recycle," George Southworth, a director of industry affairs at the Society of the Plastics Industry, said in a statement. "This study shows many Americans have the resources they need to recycle, so it’s up to us to keep educating and advocating for more effective recycling."
As seen recently in parts of Utah and Houston, it can make sense to have opt-in and drop-off programs for difficult materials such as glass. The challenge now is to find new ways to expand recycling programs to rural areas and multi-unit buildings which may not have them yet. Availability doesn't guarantee participation, but it's a necessary first step for the long-term success of the country's recycling efforts.