A System in Trouble
The U.S. recycles only 34% of all the waste we throw out and we've been stuck at this level for decades. Individuals are a key part in making the recycling system work, because we provide a supply of materials and also a demand for products with recycled content. But, many of us don’t know what happens after those items leave our homes. We're confused by inconsistent rules and labeling of what we can and can't recycle. We might not understand the roles of other stakeholders, like companies and governments, and how we can hold them accountable for doing their part.
Our confusion is one reason why recycling is stuck.
For example, when we put incorrect items in the bin, we risk contaminating other items that are actually recyclable, decreasing the value of those recyclables. So, we end up with a lot of contaminated stuff manufacturers won’t buy. This can mean recyclables won’t go onto be used in new products or displace virgin materials that come from methods like mining and deforestation.
This new book provides answers to clear up confusion.
Recycling has measurable environmental and economic benefits. It's more than a feel-good manner to dispose of our used items. It can mean saving resources and reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. A thriving system helps manage our materials in a sustainable loop. But there are fundamental challenges in recycling that we need to untangle to see these benefits. Our recycling system is at a crossroads, but if we tackle its problems, it can stabilize and thrive.