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We’re All In

originally appeared in Recycling Today /  by DeAnne Toto

The Recycling Partnership and the PepsiCo Foundation partner to help fund investments in recycling infrastructure and education.

What happens when a national nonprofit dedicated to improving recycling partners with the philanthropic arm of a multinational food, snack and beverage corporation? According to The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, and the PepsiCo Foundation, Purchase, New York, 25 million families gain access to or optimize their existing recycling programs, resulting in the collection of 1.9 million tons of quality recyclables over the next five years.

In late July, the organizations partnered to launch All In On Recycling, which they describe as “the largest ever industrywide residential recycling challenge.”

MULTIPLYING THE INVESTMENT

The PepsiCo Foundation has provided $10 million to jumpstart the challenge, which is seeking to raise $25 million in total donations from companies and organizations.

“We identified curbside and residential recycling as a critical area for investment and knew that [The Recycling Partnership] was the right partner for the project,” says Tim Carey, senior director of sustainability for PepsiCo. “We’ve been working with them for the past few years and believe in their data-driven approach that identifies, community by community, the specific challenges with residential recycling and then deploys targeted solutions.”

Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, says the investment model will allow the nonprofit to provide recycling carts to communities across the U.S.; create multifamily recycling infrastructure; optimize existing recycling programs through technical assistance and access to free online tools; and deliver education that will drive behavioral change among consumers.

“The Recycling Partnership model leverages corporate dollars to unlock public sector dollars,” Harrison says. “To date in our infrastructure projects, that leverage has been as high as $7 public sector to $1 private sector.”

She continues, “For this challenge, we anticipate at least a three-fold leverage—so we’ll be able to turn that $25 million into $100 million ($75 million leverage) worth of recycling improvements.”

The public dollars come from local budgets and state grants, Harrison says, adding that additional community foundation funding could be provided.

Several large corporations in addition to PepsiCo have shown interest in the program, she says, noting that final amounts have not been determined as of mid-September. However, Harrison says she expects those figures to be in the millions. “The more we are able to raise, the more system change we can make at an important time in the history of U.S. recycling.”

Because of insufficient infrastructure, widely varying municipal recycling programs and low awareness of proper recycling practices, more than half of the material that could be recycled from U.S. households is lost, the partners say.

Half of the total funds raised by this challenge are expected to help provide curbside carts to more than 550,000 households—a proven way to double the number of recyclables recovered, according to The Recycling Partnership—and the missing infrastructure needed to recover recyclables from multifamily homes, such as apartment buildings and condos. The other half of the funding will support recycling education and operational programs that will increase collection of recyclables while reducing contamination, which has become a growing area of concern in light of the quality parameters China introduced earlier this year for imports of recyclables.

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