The State of Curbside Recycling in 2020



“It is clear that unless stakeholders from across the value chain align and step up, we will not be able to drive the change necessary to move recycling in the U.S. to the next level. Every day we hear from citizens, communities, policy makers, corporate leaders, and other NGOs who all want the same thing – a stronger recycling system. It will take bold public-private partnership and leadership to make lasting improvements. Now is the time for action.”


— Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership.


The 2020 State of Curbside Recycling report calls for these clear, integrated strategies:

  • Substantially greater support of community recycling programs with capital funding, technical assistance, and efforts to strengthen and grow local political commitment to recycling services.
  • New and enhanced state and federal recycling policies.
  • Continued investment expansion in material processing and end markets.
  • Resident education and engagement to help citizens recycle more, better.
  • Continued innovation in the collection, sorting and general recyclability of materials, including the building of flexibility and resiliency to add new materials into the system.
  • Broader stakeholder engagement in achieving all elements of true circularity, in which the fate of all materials is not just intended to be recycled, but that they are designed, collected, and actually turned into something new.

Out of 37.4 million tons available to be recycled, 20 million tons are thrown in the trash due to lack of access and participation

If these 20 million tons were recycled, it would:

  • Generate 370,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs
  • Reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
  • Conserve an annual energy equivalent of 154 million barrels of oil
  • And achieve the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways

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