The Recycling Partnership publishes its 2022 impact report


The Recycling Partnership has released its 2022 Impact Report, detailing its work with communities, material recovery facilities (MRFs), material manufacturers, brands and retailers, and people. The report presents a system with objectives related to their stakeholders. The system works as follows:

  • all households can recycle,
  • people know what and how to recycle,
  • material recovery facilities are fully modernized,
  • stakeholders work together to overcome material-specific barriers to recycling,
  • the packaging that enters the system is designed for or on the path to recyclability, and
  • recycling benefits from a sustainable public-private funding stream based on smart policy.

In terms of economic impact, $95 million has been invested in The Recycling Partnership to date. The organization has accrued a total of $241 million in total value creation, including:

  • $163 million in capital and state investment in recycling
  • $24 million in new recyclable materials collected
  • $19 million in technical assistance to cities and states
  • $16 million in carbon savings
  • $13 million in landfill costs avoided
  • $6 million in member consulting

Resolve with communities

The State of Michigan, which has set a goal to increase statewide recycling from 14% in 2019 to 45% by 2030, is receiving help from the Partnership to effect change. The Partnership has provided support with contributions such as carts for curbside recycling, improved collection point recycling, improved MRF operations and the Feet on the Street program to improve the quantity and quality of materials captured . In the first year of this collaboration, there was an average contamination reduction of 35% for curbside collection programs, an average contamination reduction of 26% for collection programs, and an increase 10% participation in most of the communities involved.

In Orlando, Florida, the partnership focused on providing access to recycling for multi-family communities, which the organization says are among the most underserved in the United States. The partnership provided a grant to the city which funded a full-time city employee to serve as a multi-family recycling center. Project Manager. Overall, the city added recycling services to 21,500 multi-family dwellings in the first year of this four-year project. Increased participation in the city’s recycling program diverted an additional 2.2 million pounds of recyclables from landfills in the program’s first year.

A more than $10 million public-private partnership between Baltimore and The Recycling Partnership has delivered nearly 200,000 free recycling carts to households across the city. The report says it is the largest partnership to modernize recycling to date and enables safer and more efficient collection while minimizing waste in waterways. The amount of recycled material recovered is expected to increase by 80%, generating more than 40 million new valuable recyclable materials each year.

The report notes the Recycling Inclusion Fund, a dedicated funding stream created by The Partnership that focuses on adapting the recycling industry through research, infrastructure, and education and leadership opportunities in the BIPOC community.

Resolve with material recovery facilities

To address aluminum can sorting issues, the Partnership launched an MRF grant program to capture aluminum beverage cans to invest in eddy current separators, robotic sorters, other equipment and process improvements to capture more cans during the sorting process. Five grants were awarded to MRFs across the United States in 2021.

Overall, equipment installed in MRFs from the five 2021 can capture subsidies will result in 71 million aluminum cans being recycled each year, the report said. According to the Can Manufacturers Institute’s Impact Calculator, this will result in $1.15 million in additional revenue generated for the US recycling system and energy savings that could power more than 28 million US homes for one hour.

The Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, founded in July 2020, has awarded more than $6 million in grants for sorting equipment in MRFs and consumer education programs in communities. These funds, according to the report, will impact nearly 18 million Americans and improve access to curbside polypropylene recycling for nearly 7% of U.S. households.

Resolve with material manufacturers

The Partnership leads three material-specific coalitions: the Polypropylene Recycling, the Film and Flexibles Recycling Coalition and the PET Recycling Coalition, formed in 2022. Advancing the recyclability of one type of material improves the system for all by increasing the amount of captured material and reducing contamination, says the organization.

Orange County, Florida began working with The Partnership due to an almost 40% contamination rate in its curbside recycling program. The program reduced the contamination rate by 29%, improving material value by 23% and generating 40 million pounds of recyclable materials per year. There has also been a tenfold increase in materials processed at MRFs across the county from 2020 to 2021. According to the report, the program with the county has the potential to recoup $3.6 million in recycled material value when ‘It’s being implemented across the county.

Resolution with brands and retailers

The Residential Recyclability Framework, part of the Partnership’s Packaging Circularity Pathway that provides users with a step-by-step process to assess the recyclability of packaging, was opened for public comment in August 2021. The Partnership received over 750 individual comments from 70 organizations, which were incorporated to establish the Circular Packaging Assessment Tool, an interactive version of the framework.

Another tool featured in the report is Plastic IQ, a free digital strategy tool that helps US companies discover ways to make their packaging more circular. Plastic IQ evaluates the effectiveness of company strategies and provides a detailed summary of the results to users. According to the report, Plastic IQ gained 1,000 users in its first year.

Resolve with people

The Partnership launches the Center for Sustainable Behavior and Impact. The Center will focus on expanding research on barriers and feelings towards recycling, testing solutions to improve recycling behavior, and creating a manual and online tool to widely disseminate best practices and key information.

The report concludes with a three-year plan focused on transforming the US recycling system and accelerating the circular packaging systems of the future.

Additional goals include:

  • Recovery and collection of more than 1 billion pounds of new recyclable materials each year;
  • Improved consumer participation and confidence in recycling and improved recyclability claims and labelling;
  • Creating new, scalable and systematic approaches to recyclability for items that are currently difficult to recycle;
  • Initiation of an effective and efficient policy that improves the performance of the recycling system; and
  • Turning thousands of packaging items into recycling and reducing tens of millions of pounds of packaging through improved designs.

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