As Innovation Outpaces US Recycling System, Brands Must Align with Realities, Report Says

(Credit: The Recycling Partnership)

by | Oct 23, 2019

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(Credit: The Recycling Partnership)

Brands and organizations must align packaging with the realities of the current recycling system, while also investing to advance the system, if the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is to be met, the Recycling Partnership says in a new report. The commitment is from organizations that have a stated goal of 100% of plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

The report, Bridge to Circularity: Putting the New Plastics Economy into Practice, is the Recycling Partnership’s attempt to put together a set of concrete actions that would build a bridge between the existing US recycling system and an optimized, circular system — one that would eliminate waste by design, keep materials in use and regenerate natural systems.

The report pinpoints three major challenges facing the US recycling system:

  • The speed of packaging innovation has outpaced the capabilities of our recycling infrastructure. 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.
  • As it stands, the US recycling system cannot deliver the supply of recycled materials demanded by the Global Commitment. It will be impossible for many companies to meet their ambitious recycled content commitments without significant interventions in the recycling system.
  • 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.

“Our current recycling system is fundamentally underfunded and incapable of delivering a circular economy without dramatic evolution,” says Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership. To create what Harrison calls a “new and improved recycling system of the future,” the report calls for $500 million to fund initiatives that would by advance technology, build more robust data systems, and boost consumer participation.

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