The development of the recycling market is experiencing a resurgence. What began in the 1990s as a key United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strategy to reduce environmental impact through landfill diversion and greenhouse gas reduction, is now underway. to be revisited. Supporting end markets for recycled materials is seen as a solution to our reliance on tight export markets in Asia, increased interest in recycled content, and increased focus on creating circular economies. Since Washington state launched a new recycling development center in 2019, four more states – Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York – have turned to this model to advance circularity and create economic growth.
Since a year, AMERIPEN worked with state market development agencies to understand how industry and states can work together to drive increased packaging recovery. We were surprised to learn that there was no official manual for these programs and that many program managers learned by trial and error. Program managers in more established programs often served as informal mentors to newer programs.
Our new report, produced with Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), âBest Practices for State Recycling Market Development Centers, âExplores the approaches used by existing successful organizations and serves as a roadmap for state governments and stakeholders to establish or improve local recycling market development centers.
To be involved.
Today’s successful programs have used data and support from stakeholders and government leaders to demonstrate that investments in recycling market development deliver positive environmental, economic and social outcomes for states and local regions. This collaboration is essential to their success.
As more companies set voluntary goals for recycling and using recycled content, industry expertise is needed to ensure that we have the systems in place to successfully meet those goals. The packaging industry and branded companies can and should support the creation of more end-market opportunities in the United States. Our results indicate that programs that have more community engagement – and that can meet industry demand and barriers to sourcing post-consumer recycled content – appear to be more successful.
We have also learned that recycling market development programs in the United States have a variety of goals. While some programs focus on research and development, others focus on attracting businesses to their states or working with local industries to find solutions for using recyclable materials. Industry knowledge can strengthen these services to help target needs and demonstrate their value to government agencies, other stakeholders and the communities they serve.
The same goes for stakeholder expectations of these programs: collaborative discussions with industry, including brand-owned companies, are needed to prioritize interests and systematically mobilize additional support. In the past, we have seen a tendency for state partnerships to reorient concerns towards issues of municipal collection and contamination supply. We need industry stakeholders to ensure that the primary focus of new recycling market programs is create demand for recycled content.
Our work also revealed that more and more programs are seeking to diversify their funding sources to complement the funds allocated by the state. This includes federal funding and private sector sources such as grants, sponsorships, and fee-for-service. Here too, companies and packaging brands can participate – either through direct engagement, recycled content purchase commitments, or advocating for more recycling funds to be used for end market development..
The most effective programs we studied harness the unique skills of a diverse group of collaborators, including companies, state environmental and economic development agencies, and universities, to balance the lifecycle needs of these materials.
Companies engaged in market development range from those who collect, sort and process materials to raw material suppliers and processors who influence end-of-life options and brands using the materials to create new products and packaging. Therefore, these business perspectives should be represented among program staff to better understand the drivers of a recycling program. Small staff can form external partnerships with industry representatives to gain this crucial expertise.
Although many factors affect the advancement of packaging recovery, market development is integral to creating the demand that we need to increase recovery and communicate to consumers the value of reusing and remanufacturing products. packaging materials.
The programs of the 1990s focused primarily on environmental aspects with a minor emphasis on job creation, but now even the EPA has recognized the incredible economic value that recycling also creates for states. Last year he published his first study on economic impact of recycling. The report shows that in 2012, “recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for 681,000 jobs, $ 37.8 billion in wages and $ 5.5 billion in tax revenue.”
As we seek to advance packaging circularity and respond to increased public attention to plastics, market development will be critical in helping our industry achieve its goals; our support and commitment to this effort can help our country emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and cleaner.
Please follow AMERIPEN on LinkedIn as we announce more efforts to encourage industry collaboration with these programs as we approach 2022.