5 Key Recycling & Diversion Insights
Key concepts for businesses to keep in mind in 2020.
1. Governments are setting tougher targets for recycling and diversion goals.
As landfills stack up and residents become more environmentally active, city and state governments are enacting stricter recycling laws. San Diego, Washington DC, Phoenix, New York, Seattle, Boise, and many others are exploring or have already put new laws in place to drive a reduced waste mindset.
The Business Takeaway: Keep up with local policy. As regulations change, companies and individuals will need to adapt their waste and disposal methods.
2. The recycling industry is still adapting to China’s “National Sword” policy.
In early 2018, China banned the import of some plastics and other materials headed for its recycling processors – creating a backlog of recyclable goods across the globe1 and leading to countries landfilling recyclables. Today, though there has been a rise in technology, education, diversion, and other tactics, it remains to be seen if the US will rise to the occasion and adapt.
The Business Takeaway: Residential recycling service costs hit $6.85 per month per household due to repercussions from National Sword – up 11% over 2018 costs2. Commercial and residential recycling costs will continue to rise as countries figure out new ways to handle additional recycling processes.
3. The United States is doing better at recycling and waste management… but there’s room to improve.
In 1960, only 7% of US waste was recycled or diverted – today, that number is almost 40%3, a 5x increase! Yet, education is still necessary as recyclables in the waste stream are highly contaminated. Meanwhile, each American still generates 4.5 pounds3 of waste a day – and it’s growing each year. The US has a long way to go towards achieving a net zero impact.
The Business Takeaway: Overconsumption in the US is a problem. Reduction of waste simply starts with using less.
4. When it comes to recycling, not all products are created equal.
Understanding environmental impacts and methods for recycling products versus reusing is critically important. For example, reusing or donating a car can save 8,811 lbs. of CO2 greenhouse emissions4 (compared to building a new one). Correctly reusing a refrigerator can eliminate 566 lbs. of CO2 greenhouse gases – and both are notoriously hard to recycle. Yet, recycling a ton of plastic bottles can save 3,380 lbs. of C02 emissions4 – and are tricky to traditionally reuse.
The Business Takeaway: Based on the product, understand your options. In most cases, reuse or diversion should be considered before traditional recycling or disposal.
5. People want sustainability – and they’re willing to make changes to get it.
Consumers are shifting to eco-friendly and virtue-based brands – evident by the likes of sustainably sourced goods, plant based foods, and repurposed products. Method soaps, Rothy’s shoes, and Beyond Meat are all perfect examples. Additionally, employees want to work with companies that are environmentally conscious, and companies are responding5. Today, nearly 3,000 Certified B Corporations exist in the world6, almost double the volume from three years ago.
The Business Takeaway: Make sustainability a core part of your business, and let customers and employees know about the steps you’re taking, and get them involved.