The Recycling Partnership, a mission-driven NGO committed to advancing a circular economy by building a better recycling system, recently released its 5-Point Plan to Fix Recycling. Since its inception in 2014, The Recycling Partnership has been addressing big challenges head-on, collaborating with the full spectrum of stakeholders to drive recycling system change.

Recycling has the power to deliver a host of climate, economic, and waste management benefits – 80% of Americans believe in the positive impact of recycling.  But today U.S. recycling is not performing at the scope and scale that it needs to in order to achieve these benefits.

Here is The Recycling Partnership’s 5-Point Plan to fix the U.S. recycling system:

1. Ensure All Households Can Recycle

40 million U.S. households still lack the ability to recycle at home. Building equitable access to recycling services is the first critical step to a stronger system.  Since 2014, The Recycling Partnership has delivered more  than 1.3 million recycling carts to families all across the country.

2. Help the Public Understand What’s Recyclable in Their Town

Our research shows that 60% of people believe recycling is confusing.  That is completely understandable because we do not have one single system in the U.S.; we have a patchwork of 9,000 different community recycling programs, each with its own local requirements for what and how to recycle. That’s why we have developed a suite of open-source tools and resources to make it easier for people to know what and how to recycle in their town, including our recycling chat-bot that lets you know, for example, if your yogurt cup is recyclable in your community.

3. Make Packaging Recyclable

We believe in a future where all packaging is circular (meaning all packaging can be reused, composted, or recycled) – that will eliminate the guess work of recycling. To achieve this goal we are providing companies with solutions to help them design circular packaging approaches (e.g. Circular Packaging Assessment Tool, Plastic IQ). We are also driving to make a wider range of packaging types recyclable. Through grants and technical assistance, our work will increasingly enable people to recycle items they once could not (e.g. as of July, polypropylene, also known as plastic #5, is accepted for recycling in more communities across the U.S).

4. Support Policy to Help Pay for a Better Recycling System

Cash-strapped communities cannot afford to be the only source of funding for a better recycling system. We need smart policy that requires private-public partnerships, so that companies help to pay for a better recycling system . We work with government at all levels to develop policy solutions that will accelerate progress.

5. Invest in the Future

We need a $17 billion investment over 5 years to deliver the benefits of recycling to the public. That might sound like a lot, but to put it into context it represents 0.5% of annual sales of the U.S. consumer packaged goods industry over 5 years. And with smart policy, that investment will come from private-public partnerships. The return on that investment is $30 billion over 10 years. That’s a good investment – one we cannot afford not to make.

“The steps are clear. We know how to provide the public with an accessible, easy-to-use, and fully modernized recycling system. All we need now is for companies, communities, government, and all other recycling stakeholders to take action so that we can make the plan a reality.”

Keefe Harrison, CEO at The Recycling Partnership.  

How to fix recycling

The 5-Point plan

Ensure All Households
Can Recycle

40 million U.S. households still lack
the ability to recycle at home.
Building equitable access to recycling
services is the first critical step
to a stronger system.

Help the Public Understand
What’s Recyclable
in Their Town

We have developed a suite of tools
and resources to make it easier
for people to know what
and how to recycle in their town.

Make Packaging Recyclable

We believe in a future where all packaging is circular (meaning all packaging can be reused, composted, or recycled) – that will eliminate the guess work of recycling.

Support Policy to Help Pay for a Better Recycling System

We need smart policy that requires private-public partnerships, so that companies help to pay for a better recycling system.

Invest in the Future

We need a $17 billion investment over 5 years to deliver the benefits of recycling to the public. The return on that investment is $30 billion over 10 years. That’s a good investment – one we cannot afford not to make.