Before you do anything else you might want to read the best summary of recycling problems and potential solutions here



Recycling in the U.S. is broken. In 2017, only a third of our waste was either recycled or composted. The reasons are many: we have lost the markets we used to have when we were shipping our recyclables to China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya and Senegal to name a few countries which used to take our plastics, and often our glass, cardboard and paper. One waste management executive warned that many cities will suffer because collected material now “doesn’t have a place to go.” Hundreds of US cities killed or scaled back their recycling programs — as of early 2020, nearly 90 municipalities have canceled their curbside recycling programs altogether. WasteDive has compiled a  timeline of the changes to recycling procedures in all 50 states.

The lack of a market absolutely upended our recycling industry. We can still find a market for some items (cardboard, for example, if it isn't contaminated with Styrofoam) but, for the most part, municipalities now pay to have the rest removed from their recycling centers.  We don’t make it easy for these centers, throwing non-recyclable items in with recyclable items, contaminating one category of recyclables with another. The result is that much ends up in the ocean, in landfills, or incinerated. Incineration and waste-to-energy plants have been associated with toxic emissions, while landfills emit a slew of harmful pollutants — carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds, and others. Oceans are filled with plastic waste.

National recycling policy may provide relief and there a handful of notable bills to watch: RECYCLE Act, RECOVER Act, Save Our Seas 2.0, Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, ZERO WASTE Act. Find a legislative tracker of these bills at WasteDive.

Another solution revolves around the circular economy, specifically, the circular plastics economy in which more plastic is reused, and bought. Many consumer brands such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé have announced plans to use recycled plastic in their manufacturing.

What Happens To Your Recycling After Being Collected | One Small Step


Scientists develop ‘absolute miracle’ way to recycle cement

By Stephen Beech 05/23/24
An innovative way of recycling cement has been developed by British scientists.
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Here are three common recycling myths you should discard

By Allyson Chiu 05/13/24
Recycling has been around for decades and yet many questions about what can — and can’t — go into your bins persist.
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Recycling Mystery: Water Filters

By Mary McDonald 05/01/24
Have you recently switched from bottled water to tap water? It’s a good move, environmentally speaking. Single-use plastics account for 40% of the nearly 350 million metric tons of plastic produced annually across the globe.…
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Battery Recycling Shatters the Myth of Electric Vehicle Waste

By Tom Randall 04/24/24
Making a battery for an electric vehicle typically requires mining hundreds of pounds of hard-to-extract minerals. That’s put a spotlight on batteries’ heavy environmental toll, at least upfront.
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There’s an Explosion of Plastic Waste. Big Companies Say ‘We’ve Got This.’

By Hiroko Tabuchi 04/05/24
By 2025, Nestle promises not to use any plastic in its products that isn’t recyclable. By that same year, L’Oreal says all of its packaging will be “refillable, reusable, recyclable or compostable.” And by 2030,…
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Recycling Mystery: Flat-Screen TVs

By Mary McDonald 02/07/24
You’re ready to spring for a brand-new television, and now you’re faced with a problem. What do you do with your old flat-screen TV, whether it is based on LED, plasma, or LCD technology?
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Why recycling alone can’t power climate tech

By Casey Crownhart 02/01/24
The potential to use old, discarded products to make something new sounds a little bit like magic. I absolutely understand the draw, and in some cases, recycling is going to be a crucial tool for…
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Mountains of holiday food and packing waste are clogging landfills. Is there a better way?

By Hayley Smith and Susanne Rust 12/31/23
‘Twas the week after Christmas, and in a quiet corner of the San Fernando Valley, lines of waste collection trucks waited to offload their goods onto a growing mountain of garbage.
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Reimagine, reuse, recycle: How to reach sustainable packaging targets in retail

By Steve Hoffman and Others 12/14/23
The next decade will be pivotal for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. And with consumers and regulators likely to shift to more sustainable offerings and impose stricter environmental mandates, respectively, companies are feeling the pressure…
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Retired wind turbine blades live on as park benches and picnic tables

By Coco Liu Bloomberg 11/25/23
At first glance, the benches outside the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland seem unremarkable. But a closer inspection shows that their droplet-shaped shells aren’t made from wood or metal. A scan of the…
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Dumped, Not Recycled? Electronic Tracking Raises Questions About Houston’s Drive to Repurpose a Full Range of Plastics

By James Bruggers 11/01/23
The message on the signs at the recycling drop-off site here was clear, and warmly welcomed by area residents who visited on a recent autumn Saturday to stuff bags of plastic waste into large green…
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Recycling is about to get much easier

By Jennifer A. Kingson 10/13/23
QR codes with hyperlocal recycling instructions will soon show up on your milk cartons, ice cream tubs and more — meaning you'll be able to scan an item, type in your ZIP code and see…
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WM Phoenix Open Tournament Sustainability Report

The WM Phoenix Open is a zero waste tournament with a balanced carbon and water operational footprint. The use of energy, materials, and water all contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that are harming our…

Tracking the future of US recycling policy in Congress

Spurred by market challenges, the Hill has seen a historic influx of big bills. Keep up on all the latest developments with our legislative tracker.

Sim Municipal Recycling

In 2003, Sims Metal Management, through Sims Municipal Recycling (SMR), expanded into curbside recycling in the United States. SMR has since become a cornerstone of New York City’s recycling system, processing and marketing approximately 500,000…

Should I compost or recycle

Many food service products can be composted or recycled. At restaurants, posters and signage show you what to compost and what to recycle. At home, use this flyer to check your items against the requirements.

Why America’s recycling isn’t working and what you can do about it

Poor recycling habits cost US municipalities $3.2 Billion annually. What are the common challenges local governments are facing? How can you change the narrative in your municipality? Education is critical in countering this problem.

How recycling has changed in all 50 states

Waste Dive began tracking the effects of China's scrap import policies across all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) during fall 2017 for America Recycles Day. We contacted each state environmental agency and found…

BioCycle the organics recycling authority

Published since 1960, BioCycle is the go-to resource on composting, organics recycling, anaerobic digestion and renewable energy.

Climate change becomes widely recognized corporate factor for waste and recycling

While many of the largest companies have been releasing sustainability reports for years, 2019 marked a potential turning point in the level of detail and acknowledgment for this looming issue.

One thing we can do: Fix recycling

Recycling in the United States is broken. For years, we relied heavily on recycling operations in China to take our waste. But that came to an end in 2018, when Beijing barred the import of…

Why America’s recycling isn’t working and what you can do about it

Poor recycling habits cost US municipalities $3.2 Billion annually. What are the common challenges local governments are facing?

Recycling is becoming so expensive that some towns don’t know what to do

WESTFIELD — On a recent afternoon here, with urgency in the air, local officials huddled to consider what until recently was unthinkable. Should they abandon their popular curbside recycling program? Or spend millions to build…

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Learn how reducing, reusing, and recycling can help you, your community, and the environment by saving money, energy, and natural resources. Recycling programs are managed at the state and local level—find information on recycling in…

Terracycle Zero Waste Box

TerraCycle is a highly-awarded and globally recognized recycling company that develops zero waste solutions for difficult-to-recycle waste streams. To participate in the Zero Waste System, you must first select the waste streams you would like…

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin?


Making Solar Energy as Clean as Can Be Means Fitting Square Panels Into the Circular Economy

By Emma Peterson and Wyatt Myskow   10/09/23  
Even for the most enthusiastic boosters of renewable energy, it’s hard to argue that solar panels provide truly clean electricity if, at the end of their lives, many of them end up in landfills.
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is finally getting cleaned up — but what’s happening to all that plastic?

By Abby Jackson   10/04/23  
A relatively uncharted island entirely made of trash, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an enigma. Still, reducing its size is an even bigger mystery.
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Don’t Trust Plastic Snack Wrappers With Recycling Instructions

By K Oanh Ha   09/29/23  
The former teen idol Zac Efron is riding a skateboard, and then he’s dressed for some reason in a bee-keeper’s uniform. He’s talking about the “pretty freaking cool” second life of recycled plastics, including the…
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You’re probably recycling plastic wrong. And it’s not your fault.­­

By Robert Gebelhoff   07/31/23  
Picture this: You finish a drink from a red Solo cup, and before throwing it out, you check the bottom of the cup to see the iconic recycling symbol. That means it can be tossed…
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Experts Say Decades of Recycling Hype Has Backfired Dramatically

By Michaela Barnett   07/25/23  
You've just finished a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe. Now you're facing a trash bin, a recycling bin and a compost bin. What's the most planet-friendly thing to do with your cup?
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Communities take steps to overcome Long Island’s food scrap dilemma

By J.D. Allen   05/17/23  
The Town of Riverhead partnered with nonprofits Long Island Organics Council and Green Inside and Out to launch the drop-off site in Calverton where organic waste will be converted into compost.
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Who Said Recycling Was Green? It Makes Microplastics By the Ton

By James Bruggers   05/16/23  
Research out of Scotland suggests that the chopping, shredding and washing of plastic in recycling facilities may turn as much as six to 13 percent of incoming waste into microplastics—tiny, toxic particles that are an…
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Yet Another Problem With Recycling: It Spews Microplastics

By Matt Simon   05/05/23  
The Plastic Industry has long hyped recycling, even though it is well aware that it’s been a failure. Worldwide, only 9 percent of plastic waste actually gets recycled. In the United States, the rate is…
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With a deadline looming, Long Island towns evaluate how they collaborate on trash

By J.D. Allen   05/03/23  
Most residents put their garbage out for collection at least once a week on Long Island. As long as it is picked up on time, their relationship with their trash ends there.
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Recycled Aluminum Market Expected to Reach $10.3 Billion by 2031

With a rise in demand from several industries, including the automotive and construction sectors, and driven by improved scrap treatment technologies the global recycled aluminum market is expected to grow to $10.3 billion by 2031,…
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Electric vehicles have a dirty secret. The race is on to clean it up

By Robin Eveleigh   05/01/23  
New advances in recycling are providing a solution to the environmental damage caused by skyrocketing demand for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.
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Do Not Allow Even One Fruit Fly Into Your Kitchen Compost

By Katherine J. Wu   04/19/23  
Collecting food scraps in your kitchen can invite insect invaders. But there are plenty of ways to outsmart them. Last week, as my spouse and I were settling into our new home, we were dismayed…
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How New Yorkers’ Food Scraps Get ‘Digested’ to Provide Gas for Homes

By Robin Shulman Agüeros   04/19/23  
For 20 years, New York City officials have discussed developing a compost program, and for a decade they have experimented with small-scale versions. Finally, last month, Mayor Eric Adams launched a citywide initiative to collect…
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Deep RL at Scale: Sorting Waste in Office Buildings with a Fleet of Mobile Manipulators

By Alexander Herzog and Others   04/18/23  
We describe a system for deep reinforcement learning of robotic manipulation skills applied to a large-scale real-world task: sorting recyclables and trash in office buildings. Real-world deployment of deep RL policies requires not only effective…
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The Biggest EV Battery Recyling Plant Opens in the US

By Andy Corbley   04/12/23  
Inside its walls, a Massachusetts-based startup will be harvesting lithium carbonate, cobalt, manganese, and other battery minerals and selling them back to the market, circumventing the huge challenges that come from opening new mines.
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AI-powered robots could fix recycling’s biggest problems

By Jennifer A. Kingson   04/04/23  
The U.S. recycling industry is starting to get a helping hand from robots, which can sort trash faster and more safely than humans, and artificial intelligence, which gathers valuable data about what's been thrown out.
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Battery recycling is key to a clean future

By Yan Wang   03/16/23  
Battery recycling has become an important issue in the United States, and recent efforts by the federal government, private industry and academia suggest that the country is quickly making batteries more easily recycled, reused and…
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Tips for Recycling Computers, Phones, & Other E-waste Successfully

By Daniel Dern   03/08/23  
It happens to all of us, when the computer, smartphone, or another electronic device no longer meets our needs. Making your electronics last as long as possible is the most effective way to lower the…
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Less plastic or more recycling – nations split ahead of treaty talks

By Joe Lo   02/22/23  
Ahead of talks on a new plastics treaty, nations are split over whether to target reductions in the amount of plastic that is produced or just to try and stop it from polluting land and…
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‘Advanced’ Recycling of Plastic Using High Heat and Chemicals Is Costly and Environmentally Problematic, A New Government Study Finds

By James Bruggers   01/19/23  
The plastics industry’s quest to solve the problem of plastic waste through so-called “advanced” recycling—using chemical additives and sometimes extremely high heat to turn waste back into new plastics—is costly and comes with significant environmental…
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What really happens to your clothes after you donate them

By Allyson Chiu   01/04/23  
How much of your donated clothing finds a new home or helps someone in need? Far less than you probably might think, experts say....
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Recycling Mystery: Political Yard Signs

By Maureen Wise   11/09/22  
Fall and spring are election seasons in the United States when citizens select their representatives and pick their sides on local issues. Political signs sprout up in voters’ front yards to endorse the candidates and…
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Recycling, Like Everything Else, Needs an Upgrade

By Mitch Ratcliffe   10/31/22  
Much has been written about last week’s Greenpeace report decrying the state of plastic recycling. Our recycling system is not just broken but considered a joke, a defeatist view that will cost us in the…
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Only 5% of plastic waste generated by US last year was recycled, report says

By Nina Lakhani   10/24/22  
Only 5% of the mountains of plastic waste generated by US households last year was recycled, according to new research by Greenpeace. Americans discarded 51m tons of wrappers, bottles and bags in 2021 – about…
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Inside the Global Effort to Keep Perfectly Good Food Out of the Dump

By Somini Sengupta   10/13/22  
In Seoul, garbage cans automatically weigh how much food gets tossed in the trash. In London, grocers have stopped putting date labels on fruits and vegetables to reduce confusion about what is still edible. California…
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How to Recycle a 14-Story Office Tower

By Jessica Camille Aguirre   10/06/22  
When the Dutch National Bank moved into its Amsterdam headquarters in 1968, the new buildings were epic and stylish. A sprawling Modernist landmark that took up an entire city block off the banks of the…
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Greener Shopping: The Lomi Home Composter Is a Difference Maker

By Mitch Ratcliffe   09/28/22  
The Lomi home composter from Pela has caught a lot of attention with extensive marketing on social networks. More than 100,000 have sold to date, according to Pela. We spent two months working with this…
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A New Plant in Indiana Uses a Process Called ‘Pyrolysis’ to Recycle Plastic Waste. Critics Say It’s Really Just Incineration

By James Bruggers   09/11/22  
The bales, bundles and bins of plastic waste are stacked 10 feet high in a shiny new warehouse that rises from a grassy field near a town known for its bright yellow smiley-face water tower.…
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The Department of Energy wants feedback on how to recycle lithium-ion batteries

By Justine Calma   08/30/22  
The Department of Energy just took a first step toward launching new lithium-ion battery recycling programs in the US. It issued a Request for Information (RFI) yesterday to ask for public input on how to…
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Increasing the Circularity of #1 Plastic (PET) Recycling

By Mary McDonald   08/17/22  
Here’s a trick question. Can #1 plastics — otherwise known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics — go in the recycling bin? Bet you thought the answer was yes. That’s only half right. It’s a trick…
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Can You Recycle Aluminum Foil?

By Lauren Leffer   08/02/22  
Aluminum cans are the quintessential easy recyclable. There’s no draconian number-sorting scheme, no lids to remove, and usually the quickest of rinses serves to get them clean. Beverage cans are infinitely recyclable, as they can…
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‘We Want To Keep Plastic Out Of The Environment And In The Economy’

By Jamie Hailstone   07/11/22  
The global packaging company Amcor has joined forces with the Minderoo Foundation for the Sea the Future project, which plans to build a worldwide network of sorting and recycling plants.
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California requires plastics makers to foot the bill for recycling

By Winston Choi-Schagrin   07/01/22  
The landmark legislation also restricts single-use plastics. Because California’s economy is so big, experts say, the law could have far-reaching effects.
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Why we need to recycle clean energy technologies — and how to do it

By Jeff St. John   06/13/22  
In the past decade, solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries have boomed in production volume and plummeted in price. That’s enabled many countries to accelerate the transition to lower-carbon electricity. It’s also helped electric…
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Even the clothes you donate probably end up in a landfill

By Nell Durfee   06/11/22  
Inside a large industrial building in Jamaica, Queens, I sighed, taking a quick break from ripping staples off of fabric. My back was to the windows, but even if I wanted to look outside, I’d…
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Plastic recycling doesn’t work and will never work

By Judith Enck and Jan Dell   05/30/22  
If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling.
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Recycling bills need action by NYS Legislature

By NYS Legislature   05/23/22  
Lots of flotsam and jetsam is floating through Albany during the final days of the legislative session but it is finally time to deal with an actual trash problem: New York’s outdated and unworkable recycling…
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More Consumers Doubtful Recycling Works, Study Reveals

By Dave Armon   05/18/22  
Despite a strong desire to help the environment by recycling, American consumers are rapidly losing faith that the paper, plastic and metal containers chucked into those blue bins are being recycled, according to research presented…
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U.S. plastics recycling rate slumps below 6 percent, analysis finds

By Taylor Telford   05/04/22  
Americans are recycling far less plastic, according to an analysis published Wednesday, with rates falling below 6 percent in 2021. The new findings come as this waste has rebounded from the pandemic, despite global efforts…
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How Recycling Got So Baffling

By Somini Sengupta   04/22/22  
A few years ago, my kid and I resolved to reduce our contribution to the landfill. As a test, we set a goal to empty our kitchen trash only once every two weeks.
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Trash or recycling? Why plastic keeps us guessing.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin and Hiroko Tabuchi   04/21/22  
Did you know the ♻ symbol doesn’t mean something is actually recyclable? Play our trashy garbage-sorting game. Then, read on about how we got here, and what can be done.
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New Report Trashes Chemical Recycling—It Doesn’t Solve Plastic Pollution

By Lloyd Alter   03/14/22  
After the recent signing of an agreement to develop a global treaty on plastics, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) cheered, noting its goal of "accelerating advanced technologies to recycle more of the 90% of plastics…
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Forget ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’

By Derek Thompson   02/25/22  
Humanity’s existential crisis is straightforward. The world is getting richer, richer people use more energy, and the planet’s most popular sources of energy—such as coal, oil, and wood—are slowly cooking the biosphere. Saul Griffith, an…
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Do you wishcycle? If so, you’re actually not helping to recycle.

By Jessica Heiges and Kate O' Neill   01/23/22  
Hope is central to wishcycling. People may not be sure the system works, but they choose to believe that if they recycle an object, it will become a new product rather than being buried in…
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Inside Clean Energy: Here Come the Battery Recyclers

By Dan Gearino   01/13/22  
The battery economy is booming, and with it a recycling industry is bracing itself for a wave of battery waste.Battery Resourcers of Worcester, Massachusetts, said last week that it is planning to build a plant…
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DOE Invests $13.4 Million to Combat Plastic Waste, Reduce Plastic Industry Emissions

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $13.4 million in funding for next generation plastics technologies that reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics. The seven selected research and development (R&D)…
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California’s new composting law starts Jan. 1. How to recycle your food scraps

By Karen Garcia   12/30/21  
Starting Jan. 1, instead of throwing that container of fuzzy strawberries into the trash, a new law will require Californians to recycle their food scraps and other leftovers.
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5-Step Guide to Treecycling

By Trey Granger   12/30/21  
Christmas is over and the tree may be starting to look a little sad. But how do you dispose of the tree? Christmas tree recycling, or treecycling, is the responsible way to dispose of cut…
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By 2028, Ikea Will Phase Out Plastic from All Consumer Packaging

By Leon Kaye   11/23/21  
Yes, many of us have long snickered at the very thought of Ikea furniture and products – as this recent parody bit of John Oliver in this recent Saturday Night Live skit sums up. Of…
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Big Brands Stoke Cement Kilns With Plastic Waste As Recycling Falters

By Joe Brock and others   10/28/21  
The global consumer goods industry’s plans for dealing with the vast plastic waste it generates can be seen here in a landfill on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital, where a swarm of excavators tears into…
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