← Back to Info Hub

The Recycling Partnership Announces First-Ever U.S. Circular Economy Roadmap


New “Bridge to Circularity” Report Calls for $500 Million by 2025 to Transform the U.S. Recycling System

Report Emphasizes Need for Creating New Pathways to Recyclability, Unlocking Post-Consumer Material Supply, and Crafting Bold, Transformative Policies Supported by Cutting-Edge Solutions

Oakland, CA, Oct. 22, 2019 – The Recycling Partnership today announced the first-ever roadmap aimed at addressing systemic issues in the U.S. recycling system and catalyzing the transition toward a circular economy for packaging. The report, “The Bridge to Circularity: Putting the ‘New Plastics Economy’ into Practice in the U.S.” is inspired and endorsed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation whose New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites more than 400 businesses, governments and other organizations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source.

According to “The Bridge to Circularity,” there is no single solution to transition to a circular economy–an economic system aimed at eliminating waste by design, keeping materials in use and regenerating natural systems. To build a bridge between the current system and an optimized circular system, The Recycling Partnership is calling for a set of concrete actions based on three distinct issues currently undermining the U.S. recycling industry:

(1) The speed of packaging innovation has outpaced the capabilities of our recycling infrastructure. Most plastic packaging is either not being collected for recycling or is simply not currently recyclable. To meet the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment target that 100 percent of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025, brands, organizations, and governments must align packaging with the realities of the current recycling system while also investing to advance the system.

“Pathway to Recyclability”: The Recycling Partnership is initiating a more granular process detailing how to move a package from technically recyclable to commonly accepted for recycling with partners such as Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR). Collaboratives are also being launched with the goal of optimizing the system for multiple materials and packaging formats, including but not exclusive to plastics.

(2) As it stands, the U.S. recycling system cannot deliver the supply of recycled materials demanded by the Global Commitment. In fact, the report uses the case study of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle recycling and finds an annual gap of over one billion pounds between the current U.S. supply and projected demand for recycled PET (RPET) in bottles, and that is just one packaging material type among many. It will be impossible for many companies to meet their ambitious recycled content commitments without significant interventions in the recycling system.

“Unlocking Supply”: The Recycling Partnership will launch an industry-wide $250 million residential recycling intervention to capture more than 340 million pounds of post-consumer plastics, in addition to over 2 billion pounds of other packaging materials. The report identifies specific strategies to put the capital to immediate use to benefit U.S. communities.

(3) Intractable, underlying challenges create a difficult environment in which to develop a sustainably funded and responsive future recycling system. Bold innovation, supported by transformative policy is critical to tackling the extensive issues within the current system.

“Recycling 2.0”: This new initiative calls for $250 million over five years to design and implement the recycling system of the future by advancing technology, building more robust data systems and enhancing consumer participation. In addition, in early 2020, a new policy proposal will be launched to address the unique challenges in the U.S. packaging system with the goal of achieving a sustainably funded recycling system for all materials.

“Our current recycling system is fundamentally underfunded and incapable of delivering a circular economy without dramatic evolution. With this report, we are providing the clear roadmap to create a new and improved recycling system of the future,” said Keefe Harrison, CEO, The Recycling Partnership. “We’re providing actionable solutions to help current and future partners build a sustainable and effective recycling system in the U.S.”

Harrison continued, “To make this a reality, we’re calling for $500 million to fund these new initiatives. This will be the first step toward fully optimizing our nation’s recycling capabilities and ultimately building the bridge to a circular economy.”

The report recommends that plastics packaging be used as the entry point to catalyze system change. However, it repeatedly stresses the importance of building an improved system for all materials, not just plastics.

“Concentrating on plastics alone will not create a viable platform for a truly circular economy,” said Harrison, “Nor will recycling alone ultimately suffice.”

“Tackling the global plastic waste and pollution crisis requires concerted action at a global and local level. We are delighted to see The Recycling Partnership translate the ambitious targets of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment into concrete and progressive actions to be taken in the U.S., urging businesses and governments in the country to step up efforts towards transitioning to a circular economy for plastics,” said Sander Defruyt, Lead of the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Stakeholders in the U.S., as well as around the world, must address plastic pollution at its source, by eliminating the plastics we don’t need, innovating the plastics we do need, and circulating them safely in the economy to keep them out of the environment.”

The “Bridge to Circularity” report was released at VERGE 19, an annual conference and expo dedicated to accelerating the clean economy. To read the full “Bridge to Circularity” report, please visit www.RecyclingPartnership.org/circularity

Read the report


About The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership (recyclingpartnership.org) is a national nonprofit organization that leverages corporate partner funding to transform recycling for good in, cities and towns all across America. As the only organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain from the corporations that manufacture products and packaging to local governments charged with recycling to industry end markets, haulers, material recovery facilities, and converters; The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process.

The Recycling Partnership has served more than 1,300 communities with tools, resources and technical support, helped place nearly 600,000 recycling carts, reached 60 million households, and helped companies and communities invest more than $55 million in recycling infrastructure.

About the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was launched in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. Since its creation, the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, putting the circular economy on the agenda of decision-makers around the world. The charity’s work focuses on seven key areas: insight and analysis; business; institutions, governments, and cities; systemic initiatives; circular design; learning; and communications. Over the past four years, the Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative has rallied businesses and governments behind a positive vision of a circular economy for plastics. At the heart of the Global Commitment is a vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastics never become waste, with each signatory formally endorsing the vision and the need to work towards achieving it. Further information: www.newplasticseconomy.org


Media Contacts:
Lauren O’Leary
(646) 578 6369

Samantha Kappalman
(443) 223-3322