Skip to Content



So, Should We Recycle? YES WE SHOULD!

Authored by Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director of the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) and Steve Alexander, President of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)

Most people in the recycling community know that recycling is alive and well in the United States.  Although there are current adjustments due to the actions of China, there are markets for recycled plastics. Domestic markets for materials may have shifted from historical buyer relationships to new potential customers. China’s actions have also presented accelerated opportunities for recycling education and program improvements.  This is not just a cup half full motivated by denial – it is a matter of facts.

Many of the mass media pieces that we have seen or heard – and this now includes NPR’s Planet Money podcast (episode 926) – have featured the proverbial Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling.  Yes, bad news is always so much more engaging than good news, and yes, if one major media outlet presents claims that the public is wasting its time recycling, that recycling is in…

From Bin to Market: Fixing the Recycling System

In the aftermath of China closing its doors to most Western recyclables, the issue of contamination has found its way from international markets to the humble curbside bin. Efforts to reduce contamination at its source have been launched by several entities. NERC Advisory Member The Recycling Partnership deploys funding it receives from major brands to conduct audits in communities throughout the United States, identifying contamination in curbside bins and educating stakeholders in reducing contaminants.

NERC State Member Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has launched Recycle Smart, an initiative including the Smart Recycling Guide, which clarifies, via pictures and simple text, what can and…

USDA’s School Lunch Choice Works!

As a part of its USDA funded Implementing Food Waste, Organics, and Manure Management in Rural Maryland Communities, NERC worked at Westernport Elementary School to implement a Cafeteria Waste Reduction Plan. With NERC’s assistance, the school adopted “waste free lunches,” “Offer versus Serve,” and a pilot food scrap composting program.

School lunch Choice or “Offer versus Serve (OVS)” is a program promoted by the US Department of Agriculture in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The goals of OVS are to reduce food waste in the school meals programs while letting students decline foods they do not intend to eat. School cafeteria planners also find that the program

WRAP Campaigns Raise Awareness, Increase Recycling of Plastic Bags and Wraps

This guest blog is courtesy of the WRAP program, written by Shari Jackson, Director, Film Recycling, American Chemistry Council.

Far too many people are not aware that they can recycle a wide variety of used plastic bags, wraps, and other film packaging through widely established retail takeback programs.

WRAPwas created to change that.

WRAP stands for the Wrap Recycling Action Program, a partnership spearheaded by the Flexible Film Recycling Group of the American Chemistry Council in Washington, DC. WRAP brings together government, businesses, and recycling advocates to increase proper recycling of plastic bags and wraps… that is, collecting them at ≈ 18,000…

Keep Your Mitts Out of the Compost (Please)!

This guest blog is courtesy of Susan Thoman, Compost Manufacturing Alliance

Years before my illustrious composting career evolved, I worked as a restaurant prep cook. During high school and college, I diced and peeled carrots, scrunched freezing cold potato cubes together into thick, creamy egg dressing for potato salad, and spent every Saturday morning peeling 50-pound bags of onions (which is strangely correlated to a limited dating life in those days, as I smelled not of lavender and lilacs, but of a giant onion). In those days, the cooks wore reusable neoprene yellow gloves for mixing, then sprayed them down with scalding hot water, turned them inside out, and hung them to dry at night. Then, the next day, the gloves went on again, were used repeatedly, and were only tossed out when they got nicked with a knife or holes were worn through.

Fast forward to 2018. There is a disturbing number of single use disposable poly gloves migrating into compost collection containers from commercial kitchens. These thin plastic gloves are hard to see, and a…

Keeping the Trains on Track

This guest blog is courtesy of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

Railroad has long been a critical mode for transporting ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal throughout the United States, particularly for distances greater than 200 miles. Since many recycling facilities are served by only one major freight railroad, there are rarely alternative modes of transportation – which means scrap metal and other recycling companies are too often at the mercy of the rail companies. This means having to deal with suffering poor rail service and skyrocketing fees. And recently, things have only gotten worse.

Since major Class 1 freight railroads implemented “precision rail scheduling” at the beginning of 2019, scrap metal recycling companies have seen astronomical increases in shipping costs. Unreasonable rail practices under this new system also include: (1) reductions in available time for rail car loading, unloading and storage; (2) service inconsistencies which precipitate demurrage and storage charges and impact facility operations (e.g. bunched cars, or…

Soil Health Can Help Combat Climate Change

One knows that the issue of soil health has vaulted into the mainstream when an industrial agriculture giant like Cargill collaborates with the Soil Health Institute in an $850,000 effort to help farmers gauge the economic benefits of regenerative farming. For many farmers, adopting practices that promote soil health can require significant changes to traditional practices. Reducing tillage, reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers, and planting cover crops all can present challenges to the agricultural status quo.

Why the urgency driving a call for a significant change in the way our food is produced? According to a recent article in The Guardian, “the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years…Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water,…

What Can We Do as Consumers About Climate Change?

This Guest Blog is provided by Terri Goldberg, Executive Director, Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA)

For much of my life, shopping has been a form of recreation. I learned good shopping techniques from the best, my grandmother, who was a real pro. She shopped largely for value, quality, and the brands she liked. So that’s what I have usually done. But that’s changing.

I was recently involved with writing a new NERC and NEWMOA handout, “What Can We Do as Consumers About Climate Change?” This short write-up is intended for a general audience and focuses on the climate change impacts of the stuff we consume. From what NEWMOA and NERC staff could find online, there are no other short fact sheets on this topic targeted for consumers. For me, the most powerful statements in the fact sheet emphasize that, “for most products, the greatest contributions to… greenhouse gas emissions happen during production… 42 percent of all green gases are associated with the production,…

Recycling is Not Dead

This guest blog is provided by Michael Nork, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Recently, it seems there has been a flood of news stories about the recycling “crisis.” Municipalities are seeing rising costs due to contamination problems and market restrictions, causing some to make tough choices about whether or not to continue recycling. There’s no doubt about it, these are tough times for recycling. However, it isn’t the end of the world.

It’s true that the import restrictions imposed by China’s “National Sword” policy have caused a disruption in the recycling marketplace. However, some media reporting might lead one to believe that the US was shipping the vast majority of its recyclables overseas. In fact, in any given year over the past 20 years, only about 30-40 percent of US recyclables was exported, while the majority has been, and still is, handled by domestic markets.[1] Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that we need to increase our domestic processing capacity in the wake of China’s blockade on certain recyclable materials, most notably mixed paper and mixed plastics.


Improving Residential Recycling Programs in the U.S.

This guest blog is courtesy of the Solus Group.

The recycling industry in the U.S. is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul. As the implications of China’s stringent contamination limits reverberate throughout the recycling ecosystem, residential recycling programs are particularly at risk.

That’s because it’s hard to control the waste stream of an entire neighborhood. Even the best-run recycling programs in the nation are likely to see considerable contamination in their recycling bins. Without careful sorting, there’s just no end market for corrupted recyclables anymore.

That market managed to grow even slimmer when, in March 2019, the government of India announced a ban on plastic scrap imports, set to take place at the end of August. (In 2018, 12 percent of U.S. plastic scrap exports went to India, a total of 294 million pounds.)

Here are a few ways the industry can reform residential recycling programs to produce…