Recycling has never been as important as today, as the world faces wonky supply chains and shifting climate.
According to a Recycling Partnership report, investing $17 billion over 5 years into the recycling system will bring $30.8 billion in economic benefits, create 198,000 jobs, and avoid $710 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent over the next decade.
And as CEO Keefe Harrison explained in a blog post, it’s completely within the realm of possibility to achieve these things: “we’re in a unique moment where the public, policymakers, and corporate leaders are all aligned on the need for a stronger, better system.”
There was no time like the present for the Recycling Partnership to launch the Small Town Access Fund, with a founding donation from L’Oréal USA in partnership with GlobalGiving and participation from Maybelline New York and the Arconic Foundation.
The money will go toward towns with fewer than 50,000 people to support their recycling education and programs.
The seed funding alone is expected to fund 14 projects and impact 45,000 households across Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. More than 6 million pounds of recyclable materials are expected to be shifted from landfills to the recycling system.
By targeting small and rural communities, the Recycling Partnership is trying to overcome residents’ financial, geographic, and staffing problems to deliver equitable access to recycling,
which 40 percent of American households currently lack. The organization asserts that “no one should be excluded from being able to participate, be required to go through extra steps or pay extra fees to recycle, make extra trips to recycle when it isn’t required for trash disposal, or have to find alternative ways to keep their recyclables out of the landfill.” However, members of such communities often lack curbside programs and have to drop off their recycling, which assumes the ability to travel far distances and that they know where to go.
As Rob Taylor, Senior Director of Grants and Community Development, expressed in the press release, “supporting efficient, resilient recycling programs in these communities will make it easier for residents to recycle, support local jobs, and create a valuable supply of recyclable materials to be transformed into new products.”
The Recycling Partnership has sought to achieve similar goals in other communities. For example, February marked the start of the Recycling Inclusion Fund, which aims to identify the social barriers to recycling and educates and empowers people so equitable access can be achieved. The Partnership also helps train BIPOC college graduates to be leaders in the sector via the “Fellowship Through Partnership” Program.
These are just a few examples of the Recycling Partnership’s many efforts to scale up our nation’s recycling programs. By collaborating with communities to transform their systems, partnering with companies on their materials use and sustainability goals, and advocating for policy solutions, the Partnership has given new life to 770 million pounds of recyclables, avoided 670,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, and altogether created $241 million in value since 2014.
Key to achieving this impact have been grants offered to help communities advance in their recycling journeys. Through the Residential Curbside Recycling Cart Grant, towns can apply for funding to upgrade to cart-based curbside recycling programs; over the organization’s existence, it has provided 1.3 million such carts. Other examples abound across the entire country. In August, a $300,000 grant went to Ohio to prevent recycling contamination by improving the drop-off recycling process with more funding and training.
Small Town Access Fund founding donor L’Oréal USA has also been focused on recycling. As Marissa McGowan, the Chief Sustainability Officer for North America, reflected in the press release, “this meaningful work is strongly aligned with our sustainability transformation strategy and bold, measurable targets to help solve environmental challenges facing the U.S. and world today.” In 2021, 21 percent of the plastic in the company’s packaging was from recycled or bio-based sources – amounting to 73,707 tonnes of virgin materials saved – with a goal of 100 percent by 2030. The Elsève bottles are several steps ahead of that target, having been made of 100 percent recycled plastic and 100 percent recyclable since 2020. With its involvement in the Small Town Access Fund, the beauty conglomerate takes its environmental dedication to the next level.