America Recycles Day
Pamela Gill Alabaster
America Recycles Day encourages citizens to reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle – in all aspects of their life. Established in 1997 by the National Recycling Coalition, November 15 remains a day dedicated to awareness and education about proper waste disposal.
The benefits of recycling are well documented, including reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, preserving finite raw materials, saving energy, and reducing carbon emissions and its related impact on global warming. In the last year, however, China (to whom the United States and many other countries have sent unwanted mixed paper, plastic and glass for recycling for more than 30 years) has implemented new regulations and no longer accept these materials. This change in the way we divert recycled materials has presented new challenges for waste management companies across the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that while 75 percent of the American waste stream is recyclable, only 30 percent is ultimately recycled. Improving recycling rates will require a portfolio of solutions including; government incentives to expand and upgrade the recycling infrastructure; more automation and advanced recycling technologies, such as optical recognition to sort different types of materials and ensure higher quality and purity in the waste stream; disincentives, such as taxes on landfill, which economically incent more recycling; local government utility fees or pay-to-throw fees; and regulations that push companies to phase out of hard-to-recycle plastics, to use more recycled content, or use compostable materials. We may even consider the federal government’s involvement in recycling operations, similar to the way Swedish and South Korean governments manage waste, both of which have recycling rates at 50 percent.
While the best approach may be to incentivize people to consume less – which also has the benefit of reducing some of the upstream waste created when products are made – consumer spending fuels 68 percent of our GDP and a strong economy is in everyone’s best interest.
Several of the Personal Care Products Council’s member companies are adopting innovative approaches to managing upstream and downstream waste created from operations and product packaging. Many have set ambitious goals and targets to reduce waste, and joined pre-competitive collaborations aimed at identifying solutions to managing the systemic challenges associated with a make, use, dispose linear product cycle.
Companies including Beiersdorf, Burt’s Bees, Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, Henkel, Firmenich, International Flavors & Fragrances, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble (P&G), The Estée Lauder Companies, and Unilever have committed to zero waste to landfill for their manufacturing sites.
As part of their commitment to reduce reliance on a single use model, companies including Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, P&G, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Unilever intend to reach a point where all plastic packaging will be recyclable, reusable, compostable, or refillable.
Numerous brands are making recycling easier for consumers to bring their empty packaging back to point of sale (POS), or return by mail, usually incentivized with a reward. Voluntary programs like Aveda’s Full Cycle Recycling, Back to MAC, Kiehl’s Recycle and Be Rewarded, Return to Origins, Henkel, and Garnier’s recycling partnership with TerraCycle all help consumers appropriately dispose of empty packaging.
Many companies are also increasing their use of recycled content, including Aveda, which markets hair care products in a bottle made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, and P&G, which introduced a plastic bottle made with recycled ocean plastic.
Aligned with growing interest in the circular economy, industry is also testing innovative approaches to refillable packaging. Unilever and P&G have launched a platform with LOOP, which offers consumer products for home delivery in reusable packaging; empties are then stored in a personal reuse bin and are picked up for cleaning and sterilization; packaging can be reused up to a hundred times. With the goal of finding and adopting many more sustainable packaging solutions, Olay is testing a recyclable refill pod that can be placed inside a skincare jar once empty.
This America Recycles Day, do your part to make sure waste is properly recycled and encourage your friends and families to support companies taking bold actions to address this global problem. #AmericaRecyclesDay.
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.1
- The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.2
- The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates that the 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million.3
- Over 87% of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs.4
- 80 billion aluminum cans are used each year around the world, they can be recycled endlessly and can go from recycling back to store shelves in 2 months. Recycling one can saves enough energy to run a TV for almost 3 hours.5
- Each American uses almost 700 pounds of paper each year 500,000 trees are cut down just to produce Sunday newspapers each week. If everyone recycled their newspapers, over 200 million trees could be saved each year.6
- 5 million plastic bottles are used in America every hour. Recycling one ton of plastic can save almost 2,000 gallons of gasoline.7
1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Municipal Solid Waste.” Web Accessed April 25, 2015.
2 Indiana University. “Waste & Recycling.” Web Accessed April 25, 2015.
3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “10 FAST FACTS ON RECYCLING.” Web Accessed April 25, 2015.
4 Keep America Beautiful. “Recycling Facts & Statistics.” Web Accessed April 25, 2015.
5 America Recycles Day 2019 Web Accessed November 2019.
6 America Recycles Day 2019 Web Accessed November 2019.
7 America Recycles Day 2019 Web Accessed November 2019.