Consumers, communities and businesses must commit to wasting less for recycling to reach its potential.

“There’s enough left in the trash bins that if we started recycling it tomorrow, it would have an immediate carbon impact for our planet,” says Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit that leverages corporate-partner funding to improve recycling in communities nationwide. “If every family in America recycled all that they could, we would avoid 50 million metric tons of greenhouse gas – the equivalent of taking 10.5 million cars off the road annually.”

Make it easy

Always check locally to see what your community recycles.

Harrison says that of the people who recycle, only half of their recyclable household items are put in their recycling container. The ultimate goal is to recover all of these materials, including paper, plastics, aluminum, steel, cardboard, cartons and glass.

“More and more, consumers are expecting companies to do their part to ensure that we have a waste-free future.”

Good recycling programs make it easy for consumers to recycle, telling them things, such as what day of the week their community recycles and what items can and can’t go in the bin.

 “Guessing results in ‘wishcycling’ — putting just about anything in the bin,” Harrison says. “Pizza boxes are recyclable, pizza is not. Throw the crust and greasy liner out, and then you have a beautiful recyclable cardboard box.”

Garden hoses and holiday lights aren’t recyclable, while empty plastic bottles with caps on are. Harrison warns bagging recyclables before putting them in the cart can cause problems for the recycling system.

Good for the planet is good for business

The Recycling Partnership is the only organization in the United States that engages the full recycling supply chain from retail to reuse.

“Our funding partners see the value and impact we’re having on communities, cities and states to help their residents recycle more and recycle better,” says Harrison. “Over the past five years the partnership has worked with over 40 funding partners, including Target, Unilever, WestRock, Amcor and Heineken, to improve recycling in 900 communities nationwide.”

Harrison says good design and production, as well as a commitment to sustainability, are important.

“More and more, consumers are expecting companies to do their part to ensure that we have a waste-free future,” says Harrison. “Companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr. Pepper fund us because they understand we must work together to create lasting recycling solutions. But we have much more to do to transform recycling for the good of the planet and people’s lives.”