Recycling in Review, 2013
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Posted by: Lindsay Kittleson
Recycling in Review, 2013Source: USAgain blog, January 7, 2014On November 15, 2013, President Obama issued a proclamation officially establishing November 15th as America Recycles Day. He went on to say, "I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities, and I encourage all Americans to continue their reducing, reusing, and recycling efforts throughout the year.”
As a symbolic action, this was maybe the biggest spotlight on recycling in 2013. Putting recycling on the national agenda is an important step toward creating awareness and participation, and while America Recycles Day has been celebrated since 1997, this national recognition will help the day take on new importance. It’s the kind of recognition that should lead to measurable progress going forward.
With 2013 nearing the rearview mirror, let’s take a look back on the major recycling accomplishments and initiatives of the year.
New York City’s food recycling program
Mayor Bloomberg announced an initiative that will soon handle the composting of 100,000 tons of New York City food waste. The first phase of the process is the construction of a composting facility near the city that will compost and convert food scraps into biogas, which will fuel the city and help lower electricity costs. According to the city, 150,000 homes, 600 schools and 100 high-rise buildings will participate at the program’s launch, and the entire city will hopefully be on board by 2015 or 2016.
E-waste programs in multiple states
E-scrap legislation accounted for slightly more than 10 percent of all solid waste bills introduced in 2013. However, compared to years past, there was a lack of major legislation regarding e-waste. Still, states including New Jersey, Mississippi and Washington updated and added to their e-waste programs with the goal of keeping hazardous waste out of landfills.
On a national level, the House of Representatives introduced the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, an outright ban on exporting certain electronic waste materials. Although the bill is still in its early phases, it’s significant because it shows that recycling is on the national political radar.
Textile recycling expansion
Curbside textile recycling has been happening since the early 2000s with organizations like EurekaRecycling in Minnesota pioneering the way. This year saw an expansion into cities in Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Retailers like H&M and The North Face have embraced textile recycling, too; both stores have introduces in-store bins for patrons to deposit used clothing regardless of brand.
California’s 75 percent initiative
CalRecycle, a statewide recycling association in California, released a detailed report on how the state will achieve 75 percent waste diversion by 2020. The goals of the initiative are "protecting public health and safety, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding manufacturing infrastructure and bringing green jobs to California, reducing government costs for hard-to-manage waste, increasing renewable production of energy and fuel and reducing reliance on unstable export markets.” Read it here.
Looking ahead to 2014
Strategies to increase textile recycling rates
Textiles are highly recyclable and/or reusable, yet the textile recycling rate sits at 15 percent. Strategies to increase textile recycling revolve around convenience and accessibility—in other words, the more available options to recycle textiles, the more people will utilize recycling services.
For textile recycling companies like USAgain, finding new, creative ways to promote textile recycling is key. This means doing more than just urging people to deposit clothing into bins—it means partnering with municipalities for recycling drives, working with schools to promote recycling awareness and influencing lawmakers to create pro-recycling legislation. SMART, the nationwide textile recycling association, is leading the way on recycling education with their"Wear it? Recycle it!” program that’s garnered over 2.5 million impressions.
Electronics retailers nearing goals
Both Dell and Best Buy are nearing one billion pounds of total e-waste recycled. Best Buy’s program enables shoppers to trade in electronics in exchange for gift cards, regardless of where they were purchased from. Dell has been a leader in recycling since 2009, when they became the first member of the private sector to prohibit the exportation of hazardous e-waste. While both companies should be applauded for closing in on one billion pounds of waste recycled, there’s still much work to be done by business to achieve greater extended producer responsibility.
According to the EPA, reducing waste generation to 1990 levels and increasing the national recycling rate from 28 to 35 percent would effectively offset electricity consumption from 11 million households, and that’s not even aiming very high, as evidenced by California’s 75 percent recycling rate goal.
Will 2014 be an historic year for recycling in America? Let’s do everything we can to make it one.