Public and Private Investment Will Significantly Improve US Residential Recycling and Catalyze a Circular Economy, says New Report

May 18, 2021

The report finds investment to improve the residential recycling system in the U.S. over the next five years would deliver significant environmental and financial benefits, including:

Save 710 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent;

Reduce the average water usage of 30 million people

Save the equivalent of 129 million cars’ emissions

Avoid an additional estimated $9.4 billion in landfill costs; and

Create an estimated $8.8 billion in new, high-quality recyclable commodities.

Falls Church, VA, May 18, 2021 – Significant federal and corporate investment could improve the U.S. curbside recycling rate to nearly 70% and deliver more than $30 billion in economic benefits and nearly 200,000 new jobs within 10 years according to a new report released today by The Recycling Partnership.  

The report titled, “Paying it Forward: Investment in Recycling Will Pay Dividends,” calls for a $17 billion investment over five years to completely transform the U.S. residential recycling system, maximize its potential, and make it as accessible to all households as trash service. The investment, which would be applied to proven recycling solutions, will have an immediate positive impact including an economic benefit of $30.8 billion over 10 years (including wages, taxes, landfill savings, and the value of recyclables).

“Levelling up the current U.S. residential recycling system will require collective collaboration from all parts of industry, all levels of government, investors, brands, and people,” Keefe Harrison, CEO, The Recycling Partnership said. “Now is time to take action. Corporations, federal, state and local politicians are at the table and ready to deliver tangible change. People and the planet are demanding packaging that is both recyclable and has the means to be recycled, the U.S. government is setting aggressive sustainability and greenhouse gas goals, and companies are making bold commitments around recycling and the circularity of packaging. 

The Report’s findings come at a pivotal time as corporations make aggressive commitments to use more recycled content, federal and state policymakers signal increased recycling expectations, and the American people call on businesses and government alike for more sustainable choice.

For more than seven years, The Recycling Partnership has been on the ground, working with communities to transform local recycling programs. While recycling has been a part of the American ethos for nearly 50 years, nearly half of people still lack convenient, equitable access to recycling. The current system is not only fractured and underperforming, but it also fails to capture and return the volume of recycled materials required to truly support a circular economy, which is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of natural resources.

“We can only maximize the true potential of the U.S. residential recycling system by addressing the gaps outlined in this report, and that will take supportive policy with all stakeholders at the table,” Harrison added.

The report calls for three one-time investments:

$4 billion investment to accomplish equitable recycling for every U.S. household

$3 billion investment to new or upgraded material recover facilities that would support domestic manufacturing

$4 billion investment to create a residential recycling solutions for film and flexible plastics

Furthermore, the report calls for an annual $1.2B investment for continual education and outreach strategies to reduce recycling confusion.  

“We know that the needs outlined in the Paying it Forward report within our reach – we see them demonstrated in communities where we have made similar investments,” concluded Harrison. “What we need now is scale to reach the 9,000 local recycling programs found across the U.S.; we have a once in a lifetime alignment of opportunity to make huge strides in recycling. The time to act is now.”

About The Recycling Partnership

The Recycling Partnership is the action agent transforming the U.S. residential recycling system for good. Our team operates at every level of the recycling value chain and works on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs and tackle circular economy challenges. As the leading organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain, from working with companies to make their packaging more circular and help them meet climate and sustainability goals, to working with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of the U.S. recycling system, The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 375 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 968 million gallons of water, avoided more than 420,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at