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The U.S. Recycling Crisis

Fewer recyclable items are actually being recycled these days, as recycling companies are shutting down…

  • October 6, 2018

Fewer recyclable items are actually being recycled these days, as recycling companies are shutting down and otherwise recyclable items are simply going into landfills. One nonprofit organization calls it a “recycling crisis” – and aims to do something about it.

Nonprofit organization Recycle Across America (RAA) points out that 1,000 recycling centers have shut down in what should be the U.S. capital of recycling – California.

All across the country, recycling efforts are being stymied by contamination. This occurs when non-recyclables are mixed in recycling bins along with recyclables. When this happens, recycling centers have to sort the trash by hand – an extremely labor-intensive process.

This need to sort through trash after collection has greatly raised the cost of recycling efforts, and put many recycling centers out of business.

China Won’t Take Our Recycling Anymore

RAA said that not only our U.S. operations shutting down, but previously fruitful efforts to sell U.S. recyclables abroad are hitting snags.

For instance, the group said that China, which used to purchase a third of U.S. recycling, enacted the Green Fence Policy in 2013 warning the U.S. to clean up the recyclables.

Without seeing improvements with the contamination levels, in January 2018 China announced the Green Sword Policy banning the purchase of most U.S. recyclables due to the contamination.

Fixing the Problem, with Awareness Campaigns and Solutions

In response to the U.S. recycling crisis, RAA has launched the celebrity-led “Let’s recycle right!” (“Let’s”) Campaign, which it calls the largest recycling education campaign in U.S. history.

Many of the TV/billboard/print/social media ads features simple tips for proper recycling and introduces the society-wide standardized labeling solution for recycling bins, which makes it possible for people everywhere to recycle right.

Standard Labels

RAA already has a solution: sets of standardized labels that can be put on or near recycling bins. These labels clearly show what belongs in the bins, and what doesn’t. The idea is to reduce contamination so that recycling efforts become more cost-effective.

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