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.



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?


‘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.

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.

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…

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…

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.

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…

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…

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…

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.

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.

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…

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…

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…

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)…

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.

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…

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…

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…

ExxonMobil to Build its First Large-Scale Plastic Waste Advanced Recycling Facility

By Emily Holbrook   10/11/21  
ExxonMobil plans to build its first, large-scale plastic waste advanced recycling facility in Baytown, Texas, and is expected to start operations by year-end 2022. By recycling plastic waste back into raw materials that can be…

Reusable Packaging Is the Latest Eco-Friendly Trend

By Jamie Ducharme   09/28/21  
When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is…

Maine Is a Trailblazer in Holding Companies Accountable for Recycling Packaging Waste

By David M. Kuchta   09/20/21  
This summer, Maine became the first state in the U.S. to enact an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law, which requires companies that produce packaging waste to help pay for the costs of its…

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin   07/21/21  
Recycling, that feel-good moment when people put their paper and plastic in special bins, was a headache for municipal governments even in good times. And, only a small amount was actually getting recycled.

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin   07/21/21  
The law aims to take the cost burden of recycling away from taxpayers. One environmental advocate said the change could be “transformative.”

E-Waste: What Happens When We Fail To Recycle Electronics

By Earth911   07/19/21  
Today, the average person owns three to four electronic devices. But what happens after these devices become obsolete and replaced? The unfortunate reality is that a majority go into the trash can, generating e-waste. It…

Sick of your litter and recycling not being recycled? Meet Circular Philadelphia, the new org encouraging a reusable economy.

By Julie Hancher   06/15/21  
Recycling has been broken for a long time. Consumers are the ones responsible for ensuring their “waste” ends up in the right locations, whether trash, recycling, or composting. What if, instead, we locally recycled those…

Maine tries to shift some costs of recycling onto companies instead of taxpayers

By Frances Stead Sellers   06/14/21  
 At the height of tourist season, the recycling bins in this coastal town used to swell with glass and plastic, office paper and piles of cardboard from the local boatyard.

As electric vehicles take off, we’ll need to recycle their batteries

By Madeleine Stone   05/28/21  
When Ford unveiled the F-150 Lightning last week — an all-electric version of the best- selling vehicle in the United States—it was a big moment in the short history of electric cars. The 530-horsepower, 6,500-pound…

The world’s first ‘infinite’ plastic

By Katherine Latham   05/12/21  
There is one man-made material that you can find in the earth, the air and in the deepest ocean trenches. It is so durable that the majority of what has been created is still present in…

Book offers insights, answers questions about what you can and cannot chuck into your blue bin

By Erin Blakemore   04/10/21  
Can you throw a pizza box in the recycling bin? How about a candy wrapper or a shampoo bottle? If you’ve ever been perplexed by the byzantine rules of recycling, you’re not alone. And if…

State Legislature Considers Waste Reduction Legislation

By Molly Russell   04/02/21  
Currently, 40 percent of the 17 million tons of waste generated annually in New York State comes from product packaging and paper products (PPP). Falling under this category are plastic containers, glass bottles, aluminum cans,…

Countries Tried to Curb Trade in Plastic Waste. The U.S. Is Shipping More.

By Hiroko Tabuchi and Others   03/12/21  
When more than 180 nations agreed last year to place strict limits on exports of plastic waste from richer countries to poorer ones, the move was seen as a major victory in the fight against…

Another Voice: Recycling bill would help environment, taxpayers

By Brian Smith   03/09/21  
In 2017, recycling markets in China and elsewhere began closing their doors to the U.S. Not only did this force us to deal with our own recyclable materials, but it also exposed fundamental flaws in…

How do we turn oil into plastic?

By Emma Bryce   01/18/21  
"Only we humans make waste that nature can't digest." Those are the words of oceanographer Capt. Charles Moore, who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. And, of course, he's talking about plastic.

The Lasso Robot Wants to Make Recycling at Home Easier

By John Biggs   01/12/21  
Recycling is important but it’s also a pain. Separating glass from plastic from paper isn’t a terrible task but what wouldn’t it be nicer if a robot did it instead? That’s why one inventor built…

The Importance Of Recycling Electronics

By Sam Bowman   01/12/21  
When people think of recycling, images of plastic jugs, empty cans, and plastic bags usually come to mind. Fewer people consider electronics when thinking about the process of reducing, reusing, or recycling — but microwaves,…

Planning for the future: Waste management solutions from LI’s leader

Long Island is facing a crisis. Within the next four years we will run out of space to put the one million tons of garbage Long Islanders produce annually. If we don’t act now to…

The Plastic Pandemic: COVID-19 trashed the recycling dream

By Joe Brock   10/05/20  
Recyclers struggle as oil world invests hundreds of billions to make new plastic.

More Talk and No Action on Chemical Recycling

By Lloyd Alter   09/15/20  
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has long been a bête noire of Treehugger, ever since they tried to get the LEED green building certification system banned because it tried to limit the use of plastics…

New Report Confirms: Recycling Is BS

By Lloyd Alter   09/14/20  
We have a tradition on Treehugger: On every November 15th since 2008, on America Recycles Day, we do a post calling recycling what it is: "a fraud, a sham, a scam perpetrated by big business…

Big Plastic Spends Millions of Dollars to Lie to You About Recycling

By Zulie Rane   09/14/20  
This launched the $50-million-a-year campaign to rebrand plastic. The 1980s and 1990s featured heartwarming, sweet videos with kids talking about how plastic wasn’t trash — it was full of possibility! Plastic executives were photographed grinning…

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

By Laura Sullivan   09/11/20  
Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry…

Pittsburgh-based start up creates a smart way to recycle

By Maria Scapellato   06/24/20  
A Pittsburgh-based startup is using technology to revolutionize the recycling industry. RoadRunner Recycling uses software designed to help businesses...

Recycling in the U.S. Is Broken. How Do We Fix It?

By Renee Cho   03/13/20  
Most of what you put into the recycling bin doesn’t actually get recycled. Here’s why — and how we can do better. ...

How many curbside recycling programs have been cut?

By E.A. Crunden   03/04/20  
Waste Dive's running tally of 70-plus suspensions or cancellations is smaller than some reported numbers (and does include revived programs) but still continues to grow.

Most plastics in our recycling bins aren’t getting recycled, new report finds

By Starre Vartan   02/24/20  
Most recycling programs accept plastics labelled 1 through 7, but in the vast majority of cases, only #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) actually get recycled, a new report via Greenpeace has found.

Federal Bill Seeks to Make Companies Responsible for Plastic Waste

By Michael Corkery   02/10/20  
The legislation, to be introduced Tuesday, has little chance of becoming a law, but the effort shows the increased influence of environmental groups in taking on recycling issues.

Will This Be The Year The State Tackles Its Waste Crisis?

By Rachel Becker   02/09/20  
Even the special interests that helped kill a California Senate bill aimed at reforming beverage bottle recycling say the state needs to fix its broken system. And one lawmaker who voted no on the bill…

2020 could be the year of legislative boom – or bust – for national recycling policy

By E.A. Crunden   02/05/20  
An influx of legislation in Congress aims to tackle problems facing the recycling industry amid rising public attention. The bills range widely in their industry backers and odds of success.

Malaysia returns trash, says it won’t be the world’s waste bin

By Associated Press   01/20/20  
Malaysia has sent back 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mainly rich countries since the third quarter last year, with the environment minster warning on Monday that those who want to make the country…

World’s Biggest Producer of Plastic to Curtail Its Use

By Lucille Liu, Dan Murtaugh, and Heesu Lee   01/19/20  
China will curtail its consumption of single-use plastic in an effort to tackle a soaring amount of the discarded material that has quickly become one of the world’s most pressing environmental crises.