- Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech on Tuesday on "economic independence" and trade policies. The speech was held at Alumisource, a producer for the aluminum and steel industries in Pennsylvania.
- Behind Trump were dozen of bales of recyclable materials stacked high into a wall, creating a backdrop for the speech.
- Mainstream media and Twitter users alike mocked Trump for giving a speech in front of what some called "a literal wall of garbage."
While the setting of Trump's speech on Tuesday was irresistible bait for pun-filled political narratives relating to "garbage," one technical error was almost completely ignored: the wall behind Trump was not garbage. Rather, it consisted of valuable material to be recycled and to create revenue for the industry.
This misinterpretation of such material was seen by some industry leaders as a call for more education to consumers, journalists, and other non-industry professionals.
"The Trump speech caught the attention of SWANA members attending our Senior Executive Seminar," said SWANA CEO David Biderman in an email. "Putting politics aside, some of the coverage and social media commentary inaccurately described bales of recyclables as 'garbage.' To those in the industry working hard to recycle and divert material, this lack of knowledge is very disappointing. It's a reminder that we need to work harder and smarter to educate Americans — including journalists — about the difference between trash and recyclables."
While the industry is working hard to increase education, more needs to be done. A 2014 online poll found that 65% of respondents were unsure which disposable materials were accepted in curbside recycling, leading to an inevitable misunderstanding that some valuable commodities are "trash." Organizations such as Recycle by City and The Recycling Partnership are working on ways to increase recycling education and rid consumers of recycling misconceptions, however it is clear that there is a long road of work ahead.