Is Hitting A 50% Recycling Rate Realistic?

In 2018 according to the latest data available Americans generated more than 292.4 million tons of waste. That’s all the packaging, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, batteries and more that gets tossed to the curb each week, averaging out to 4.9 pounds per person per day.About a third of that waste was recycled and composted. The EPA estimates that up to three quarters of our waste is recyclable, with over 60% of the average landfill composed of paper, metals, glass, plastics and food waste.That’s why a few years ago, the EPA set a goal to get the National Recycling rate to 50% by 2030. As part of President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, $75 million is going toward supporting the Recycling Act, which will help provide grants through the EPA to “educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs to improve participation and reduce contamination.”But when only a third of what is currently collected gets recycled, how exactly are they, meaning all of us, going to hit that 50% mark?First, let’s take a step back to look at how recycling has changed over the years.Recyclable paper first dates back to 9th century Japan. Almost as soon as the Japanese learned how to produce it, they figured out how to recycle it and use it again.Cut to World War II as part of the war effort, things like tin, rubber, steel and paper were recycled in order to save money and channel resources. Even cooking grease was sent to local meat dealers for use in explosives.Even in the 1950s, there were things like the milkman, who would take your used milk containers to be sterilized and used again because it was cheaper than creating something new. Most plastic was a very durable product, like Tupperware, and was designed for long-lasting use.Up until now, recycling was more about reusing the resources we could get our hands on and less about “saving the planet.”It was also around this time in 1956 that Lloyd Stouffer, editor of Modern Packaging Inc., famously declared, “The future of plastics is in the trash can,” bringing the idea of single use plastics to life. Over the course of seven years, a culture shift happened led by these manufacturers, which encouraged a disposable mindset that has persisted to this day.”Half of the world’s plastic was only produced in the year 2000, so we often act like this is a system that’s like old and very entrenched,” said Kendra Pierre-Louis, senior reporter at Gimlet/Spotify with the How to …

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