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

RECYCLING

RECYCLING

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

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

WM Phoenix Open Tournament Sustainability Report

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Tracking the future of US recycling policy in Congress

10/26/20
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

08/27/20
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

04/22/20
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

04/22/20
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

04/17/20
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

03/28/20
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

03/28/20
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

02/14/20
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

02/10/20
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

01/11/20
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

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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

11/27/19
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

06/17/19
What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin?

MORE NEWS

How Recycling Got So Baffling

By Somini Sengupta  Photo: Rinee Shah   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  Illustration: Rinee Shah   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  Photo: Justin Sullivan , Getty Images   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’

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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

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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

01/11/22  
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  Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times   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

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By 2028, Ikea Will Phase Out Plastic from All Consumer Packaging

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Big Brands Stoke Cement Kilns With Plastic Waste As Recycling Falters

By Joe Brock and others  Photo: Willy Kurniawan , Reuters   10/28/21  
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ExxonMobil to Build its First Large-Scale Plastic Waste Advanced Recycling Facility

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Reusable Packaging Is the Latest Eco-Friendly Trend

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

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

By Winston Choi-Schagrin  Photo: Leon Werdinger/Alamy   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  Photo: Leon Werdinger/Alamy   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

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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.

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

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

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The world’s first ‘infinite’ plastic

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Another Voice: Recycling bill would help environment, taxpayers

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How do we turn oil into plastic?

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The Lasso Robot Wants to Make Recycling at Home Easier

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The Importance Of Recycling Electronics

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More Talk and No Action on Chemical Recycling

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

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How many curbside recycling programs have been cut?

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

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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

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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.

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

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

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World’s Biggest Producer of Plastic to Curtail Its Use

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Is NYC Actually Recycling and Composting Its Waste?

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Waste, Recycling Trends to Watch in 2020 (Part One)

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Part one of a two-part series details emerging trends and industry experts’ outlook for 2020.

Santa Rosa County throws ‘Hail Mary’ to save recycling program, which should begin by end of January

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Santa Rosa County Commissioners are finalizing a contract to bring back recycling in 2020, a "Hail Mary" attempt to resurrect a program that's teetering on the edge of collapse due to high contamination rates and…

Covanta will set ‘science-based’ emissions reduction target by 2022 as part of climate focus

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Covanta's new sustainability report argues incineration can play a key role in diverting waste from landfills, a major source of methane, and previews a growing focus on climate concerns.

Recycling isn’t working – here are 15 ways to shrink your plastic footprint

By Emily Holden  Illustration: Sonny Ross/The Guardian   11/27/19  
Only 9% of plastics get recycled, and significant reductions will require systemic change – but there are easy tips for individuals to cut back

Big plastic polluters accused of cynically backing US recycling day

By Emily Holden and Oliver Milman  Photo: Francis Gardler/AP   11/16/19  
America Recycles Day promoted by EPA is brainchild of not-for-profit backed by companies that produce plastic products...

How recycling is changing in all 50 states

By Cole Rosengren, Max Witynski, Rina Li, E.A. Crunden, Cody Boteler and Katie Pyzyk   11/15/19  
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…

How Coca-Cola undermines plastic recycling efforts

By Sharon Lerner   10/19/19  
Audio obtained by The Intercept reveals how Coca-Cola’s “green” philanthropy helped squelch an important tool in fighting the plastic crisis....

Federal ‘Save Our Seas’ bill spurs debate over plastics recycling

By Katie Pyzyk E.A. Crunden  Photo: Brian Yurasits on Unsplash   10/02/19  
A multi-pronged piece of federal legislation known as the "Save Our Seas 2.0 Act" (collectively S.1982) recently made multiple advancements, despite recent opposition. Two bills (S.2260 and S.2372) were passed in their respective U.S. Senate…

P&G exec: Promising sustainability is easy; delivering on that promise is hard

By Jim Johnson  Photo: Jim Johnson   10/02/19  
Pledging to use recycled plastics in new packaging is easy. Actually doing it is a different story, according to an executive at one of the world's largest consumer goods companies.