Research from The Recycling Partnership shows that even though Americans support recycling, they are confused about what to recycle and lack confidence when it comes to recycling. Our 2022 Recycling Confidence Index, which gauged peoples’ confidence in their own recycling habits and recycling programs, showed that only half of those surveyed believe the items they recycle are made into new things. The Index also showed that a person’s confidence in their recycling knowledge and in the performance of recycling programs are crucial factors in encouraging recycling behavior. But breakthroughs in data and technology have the potential to increase consumer confidence in recycling; our National Recycling Database is one such innovation.
National Recycling Database
We created the National Recycling Database to address the need for a single centralized database of recycling information. This one-stop shop for recycling information helps stakeholders better understand the U.S. recycling system, improve collection and capture of materials, and enable locally correct recycling messaging. The recycling system in the U.S. is still controlled at a very local level. While some states set policies, the decisions for how and what materials are collected are still mostly made at the local level. The National Recycling Database centralizes recycling access information from more than 9,000 U.S. communities covering 97% of the population.
The database connects communities, based on the U.S. Census Bureau data, with our proprietary data on recycling programs and accepted materials lists for all communities with more than 2,500 households. This enables us to understand what type of recycling program they have, how materials are collected, and what is accepted. Through machine learning, data automation, and computer vision, the database captures local recycling changes to provide up-to-date information.
All communities are updated at least once per year, with a more automated processes occurring on a monthly basis. We are also working on a tool that will enable community recycling program managers to directly update information for their residents.
Launched in 2022, The Recycling Partnership’s National Database will offer individuals, companies, and all levels of government access to localized recycling program details.
Translating Data into Action
We are using the database to:
- Provide consumers with clear, real-time, local recycling information (see information on our Recycle Check dynamic labeling system and our recycling chatbot),
- Inform local recycling programs and target investments to drive investment to communities that most need support, and
- Understand the state of packaging acceptance and drive improvement through our Material Advancement coalitions.
40% of US households lack access to recycling on par with trash service
Most common household recyclables, such as aluminum cans, steel cans, cardboard, mixed paper, PET bottles, and HDPE bottles, can be recycled by more than eighty percent (80%) of U.S. consumers.
*This data is based on The Recycling Partnership’s National Database which reflects the primary form of collection in a community and therefore may not currently reflect supplemental drop-off programs for materials not accepted curbside.
Clear, accurate, and accountable recyclability claims are a key ingredient for building consumer trust. The National Recycling Database has the ability to support clear, real-time, local information that will better inform, educate, and inspire consumers.