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February 2019

NERC’s Advisory Members

Distinguished Benefactors

Consumer Technology Association (CTA)




Waste Management

Sustaining Members

  • American Chemistry Council

  • American Forest and Paper Association

  • American Iron & Steel Institute

  • Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)

  • Casella Resource Solutions

  • Coca-Cola Beverages Northeast, Inc.

  • Council of State Governments/Eastern Regional Conference

  • CURC

  • Dart Container

  • GDB International

  • Glass Recycling Coalition

  • Good Point Recycling

  • Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI)

  • International Bottled Water Association

  • Keep America Beautiful

  • Keurig Dr. Pepper

  • Marcal, A Soundview Paper Company

  • Mattress Recycling Council

  • MRM

  • National Waste & Recycling Association

  • Nestlé Waters North America


  • Organix Solutions

  • PaintCare

  • Plastics Industry Association

  • Re-TRAC

  • Recycling Partnership

  • Republic Services

  • Schaefer Systems International, Inc.

  • Sims Municipal Recycling

  • Sonoco

  • Strategic Materials

  • Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC)


  • US Composting Council (USCC)

A list of all the logos of our Sustaining Members can be found under Advisory Members

New & Renewing Memberships

Renewing Distinguished Benefactors

Renewing Sustaining Member

Renewing Supporting Members


State Updates




Advisory Member News

Of General Interest

New & Renewing Memberships

Membership is key to NERC's regional and national commitment to sustainable materials management. We are pleased to welcome renewing Distinguished Benefactors Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and Panasonic. We also thank Renewing Sustaining Members American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), and renewing Supporting Members the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP), Southeastern Connecticut Regional Resource Recovery Authority (SCRRRA), and Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI).

Thank you to all our Advisory Members. To see a complete listing of NERC's Members and Supporters, as well as the benefits of membership, visit the NERC Advisory Membership web page.

The broad spectrum of interests represented by NERC's Advisory Members, Individual Supporters, and Board Members and their willingness to participate significantly contribute to the unique and important role that NERC plays in recycling in the region.

For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director.


In-Depth Discussions with a Stellar Group of Presenters at NERC’s Spring Conference—Building Better Recycling Markets

NERC’s Spring Conference will gather a stellar group of experts to discuss building better recycling markets.  We’ll be talking about how recycled plastics, paper, and glass are being used domestically (traditional and alternative markets); the potential for growth in the markets; how the industry sectors are addressing the use of post-consumer recycled content (PCR); and strategies used by governments to increase the demand for PCR.

Some of the people and companies that you will have the opportunity to talk with and discuss the increased use of post-consumer recycled content in new products include:

The Conference will be held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront and sleeping rooms at the Westin Wilmington in Wilmington, Delaware on March 20 – 21. 







For more information about the Conference, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC's Assistant Director & Events Organizer.

Special Roundtable Discussion Added to NERC’s Spring Conference Agenda—Building Circular Supply Chains for Polypropylene in the Northeast

With export markets for certain recyclable commodities gone, North American recyclers are challenged to find new markets at home. Domestic infrastructure for plastics, and polypropylene (PP) in particular, is not robust enough or optimized to make up demand.

Join us in a morning Roundtable on March 20 at NERC’s Spring ’19 Conference to help forge a path to new market opportunities for PP in the Northeast. The Roundtable goal is to make transfer station and MRF operations more sustainable, keep post-consumer PP in recycling programs, and to connect operators with markets in an economically viable way.

The Roundtable is hosted by the Closed Loop Partners and NERC, and is sponsored by 

 If you have any questions about the Polypropylene Roundtable, contact Mary Ann Remolador.

Scholarships Available for Recycling Coordinators to Attend  Recycling Impact Workshop - Applications due February 15

The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), in association with The Recycling Partnership, will host the first-ever Regional Recycling Impact Workshop to improve the quality of residential recycling programs in the northeastern United States.

The workshop, offered specifically to local and regional recycling coordinators in the NERC region, will be held May 7-8, 2019 in Amherst, MA. Attendees will learn to harness the power of their recycling program through tools for fighting contamination, education and outreach, and harmonizing their message to create a stronger recycling system.

Scholarship funds are available for up to 55 recycling professionals that work in local and regional recycling programs within the NERC 11-state region: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Workshop participants will gain access to a new or enhanced network of regional peers; tactics for creative approaches to messaging and budgeting; and a deeper understanding of resources provided by The Recycling Partnership to tackle contamination.

The scholarship includes workshop registration, a one-night hotel stay, and a travel reimbursement of up to $500. Applications are due by close of business on Friday, February 15 via this online portal. NERC and The Recycling Partnership will select and notify the awardees no later than Friday, March 8.

For more information, contact:

Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director, Northeast Recycling Council, or Tricia Tiedt, Conference and Workshop Manager, The Recycling Partnership.  

Using Recycled Content Materials in Road & Infrastructure Projects Workshop - April 9

NERC and NEWMOA are jointly hosting a daylong workshop to promote the use of recycled materials in road and infrastructure projects.  The workshop will bring together state, local highway, and public works officials, environmental departments, and others to hear about new opportunities, case studies, and lessons learned from experts in the field. The workshop will focus on case studies by peers who have successfully used the following materials in road and infrastructure projects:

  • Compost
  • Glass
  • Ground asphalt shingles
  • Shredded tires

The workshop will take place April 9, Hartford, Connecticut, at the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) Offices. 

Registration is now open.  Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact Terri Goldberg, NEWMOA.

Maryland Food Scraps & Organics Diversion Project Gaining Momentum

NERC continues to work with project partners to advance food waste and organics diversion in Allegany and Cecil counties in Maryland.

Since the project began in October 2017, NERC has completed eleven trainings in conjunction with seven events, involving an estimated 200 participants. NERC also continues to be engaged in five technical assistance projects in five participant communities, in accordance with the project scope of work.

Some of the project highlights include working with an elementary school in Allegany County, a nonprofit organization in Cecil County, and a private school also located in Cecil County.

School Food Recovery Hierarchy Implementation

Westernport Elementary School is a pre-K to fifth grade school in Westernport, Maryland. There are 254 students, 13 Teachers, and 34 support staff. The town of Westernport has a population of 1,888.

Following a cafeteria waste audit, a presentation to teachers and staff, and several onsite meetings with teachers and staff, NERC was charged with developing a food scraps reduction plan for the school. The drafted plan outlined several cafeteria waste reduction options and implementation steps suitable for the school, including “offer vs. serve,” a US Department of Agriculture approved school lunch choice program, “waste free lunches,” and a pilot food scrap composting project.

NERC again visited the school this fall and met with the school principal and a third grade teacher who had been working with NERC since the start of the project. The principal agreed to move forward with promotion of cafeteria “offer vs. serve” lunch choice to third through fifth graders at the school; promotion of “zero waste” lunches; and composting one day per week during the third grade lunches.

A “parent letter,” drafted by NERC and signed by the Westernport principal, was sent home to parents. The letter discussed the school’s goals to reduce food waste in the cafeteria, outlined waste reduction tips for bagged lunches, discussed the school’s adoption of the “over versus serve” program, and the pilot composting project.

Cafeteria staff have embraced the new school lunch choice program. Homeroom teachers review the lunch choices with the students and there are menus with the lunch options at the cafeteria entrance. This has worked to help students make effective, healthy meal choices and has also proved to reduce food being wasted by students. The goals of “waste free” lunches were discussed with students, teachers, and staff who have successfully worked to reduce straw and napkin use. Composting during the third grade lunches is conducted each Wednesday. Student “compost monitors” are chosen each week to assist other students and to transport the collected food scraps out to the compost bins.

Westernport is providing a model for other schools in Allegany County and Maryland on how implementing cafeteria food scrap reduction practices can be effective and embraced by students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Advancing a Model for Rural Food Waste Diversion to Farms

Located in Colora, West Nottingham Academy (WNA) is the oldest private boarding and day school in the United States. The campus has 130 students in 9th through 12th grade students; 70 percent of students live on campus, while 30 percent attend as day students from surrounding counties. About 40 percent of the WNA student body come from countries outside of the United States. Colora is an unincorporated community in western Cecil County with an estimated population of 2,400.

WNS has developed a partnership with Kilby Farm and Creamery. Kilby Farm serves as an outdoor classroom for WNA students and provides internship opportunities for students.  The Farm also has a methane digester for processing manure from its 600-cow dairy operation. In 2017, Kilby Farm started accepting all food waste and soiled napkins from the WNA Dining Services to feed into their methane digester.  WNA students designed the school’s food scrap collection program, promotion (with assistance from Kilby Farm), and provide training and ongoing monitoring of the food scrap collection. Once per week the collected food scraps are transported by school staff and students to be tipped into the digester.

NERC held onsite meetings earlier this fall with Dr. Virginia Kennedy, WNA’s Director of Sustainability Programs; students with WNA’s Environmental Policy and Action (EPA) Class; Bill Kilby, Kilby Farms and Cecil Land Trust, and others. One primary goal was to work out details and logistics for a project webinar to feature the WNA-Kilby Farm partnership. The students will take pictures of their collection and the digester at Kilby Farm in preparation for compiling a PPT and presentation for the webinar.

Potential funding to promote the WNA/Kilby Farm partnership was also discussed. NERC worked with WNA to develop a proposal to the USDA Farm to School Program for funding to support advancing the WNA/Kilby Farm model for food scrap diversion.

For a video of this exemplary program, check out the student produced “Closing the Loop: From Waste to Wealth and Clean Energy.”

Food Waste and Garden Trimmings Composting at a Transitional Housing Organization

In addition to serving as a homeless shelter for children and families in the community, Deep Roots strives to break the generational cycle of homelessness. The nonprofit organization endeavors to provide healthy life-models, education, and support to its residents and the community. Deep Roots provides transitional housing available for 12 families at a time and free meals to anyone at its Clairvaux Café. The organization also sponsors Sprouts Afterschool Programming and other support services and programs – for adults and children. Deep Roots is located on Clairvaux Farm in Earleville, an unincorporated community in Cecil County, with an estimated population of 3,479. 

NERC has been working with Jessica Stone, Children’s Program Coordinator & her Sprouts Afterschool Program class to learn about composting and implementing food scrap composting at Deep Roots. The students helped to build a pallet composting bin earlier in the summer, under the guidance of a Cecil County Master Gardner. This fall, students helped in garden clean-up and composting the collected materials in the pallet bin. A tumbler was purchased with project funding to compost food scraps.

This past fall, Deep Roots was ready to kick-off food scrap composting of kitchen scraps. NERC met with kitchen resident cooks to discuss the food scrap composting project and provide an overview of what food scraps to collect and what not to put into the compost bucket. Buckets were placed in the kitchen, along with signage and written instructions. Ms. Stone and the Sprouts Program students inspect the collected materials, transport the collected materials to a tumbler for composting, and provide additional training as needed for the kitchen crews.

The Deep Roots staff is dedicated to overcoming the challenges of an already overworked staff and the transient nature of its residents to successfully implement food scrap composting and do their part to preserve our environment.

The Maryland project is funded through a USDA Rural Utilities Services grant to implement food waste, organics, and manure reduction and diversion in Maryland.  For more information, contact Athena Lee Bradley.

State Updates


RecycleCT Foundation Annual Report

The RecycleCT Foundation is pleased to share their first annual report, which summarizes its efforts since 2015. RecycleCT started as a result of legislation in 2014 through Public Act 14-94, which called for a number of initiatives to support increasing diversion of solid waste from disposal up to 60% by the year 2024.

The legislation called for a Council to be formed, that would create a nonprofit organization, provide research and education activities and public information programs aimed at increasing the rate of recycling and reuse in the state.  In addition, the legislation also asked the Council to provide grantmaking programs and raise funds to support these goals.

Founding Council members include Frank M. Antonacci of Murphy Road Recycling, Thomas DeVivo of Willimantic Waste, Rob Klee of CT DEEP, Ron Santos of CT Department of Economic and Community Development, Brian Paganini of Quantum BioPower and Ron Goldstein, Esq. Together they took on the challenge of interpreting Public Act 14-94, develop by laws for the new organization, RecycleCT Foundation, Inc., file for nonprofit status with the I.R.S., develop and implement programs and determine how to distribute funds to energize and invigorate efforts to reduce, reuse, recycland compost more materials found in Connecticut’s waste stream.

This fall, new officers were elected including Rob Klee of CT DEEP reappointed as Chair, Frank M. Antonacci of Murphy Road Recycling as Vice Chair and Brian Paganini of Quantum BioPower as Treasurer.  In addition, the Northeast Recycling Council was recently awarded a contract from RecycleCT to provided administrative support.

The Annual Report 2015-2018 is posted on the RecycleCT website in addition to its expanding Board membership. For more information about RecycleCT, please contact Sherill Baldwin.

Connecticut DEEP Issues Order With Penalty For Recycling Violations

The Connecticut Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (“CMMS”) is a road map to achieving the state’s goal of 60-percent diversion of materials from disposal by 2024.  To support this goal, for several years DEEP has implemented a recycling enforcement initiative to address noncompliance with Connecticut’s recycling laws, including conducting over 350 inspections and issuing over 75 Notices of Violation.  On January 14, 2019, as a result of this initiative, DEEP issued a consent order to Samuel Hecht and nine Limited Liability Companies owned or controlled by Mr. Hecht after observing a pattern and practice of noncompliance with Connecticut’s recycling law. Specifically, the Respondents failed to provide for mandatory recycling services at nine multi-tenant housing locations in New Britain and New Haven, Connecticut.

In addition to reciting the violations, the consent order requires the Respondents to: identify all multi-tenant housing locations in Connecticut owned, operated or managed, wholly or in part by the Respondents; establish compliant recycling programs at all such locations; develop and administer a comprehensive outreach and education program for all tenants; and hire an independent qualified consultant to visually inspect such locations following program implementation to verify compliance with Connecticut’s recycling laws.  The consent order also requires the payment of a $9,945 civil penalty.    

Further information on the CMMS and Connecticut’s recycling laws can be found on the DEEP website, For further information on this enforcement action or the recycling enforcement initiative you may contact Kevin Barrett, Supervising Environmental Analyst at or 860-424-3697.


MassDEP Waste Ban Inspection Program Promotes Recycling

As part of the Commonwealth’s commitment to help increase the diversion, reuse and recycling of materials, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has announced that during calendar year 2018, the agency issued 119 notices of non-compliance (NON) and eight waste ban orders with penalties to entities found violating the rules. These actions, which build upon the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to promote the environmental benefits of recycling, were for violations involving the improper disposal of significant amounts of recyclable materials and cover a wide spectrum of public and private institutions, including the food and retail sectors, hospitality sector, and educational and medical facilities.

“While Massachusetts’ waste bans have increased recycling, it is important to make sure that the rules are being followed,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The inspection and compliance efforts have helped to highlight these opportunities for businesses and help them fix and improve their recycling programs. These inspections will continue as we work to make sure that we are doing our best to promote recycling.”

For years the agency has had in place – and enforced – solid waste disposal bans. Waste bans have benefitted the environment and the Commonwealth by helping stimulate the market for recyclable materials, preserving the state’s limited disposal capacity, conserving natural resources and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 80 percent of observed waste ban violations are for disposal of cardboard, a material that is simple and cost-effective to recycle with well-established markets. For most of these violations, companies already had recycling programs in place. While the programs faced issues such as insufficient staff training, lack of signage, or containers that were not the right size or not collected frequently enough, upon receiving a notice for a waste ban violation, companies have addressed issues and returned to compliance.

First-time violators receive a notice explaining the waste ban program rules along with a reminder to improve the company’s practices in order to adhere to the state regulations. If MassDEP later observes the same company continuing to throw out banned materials, then a penalty is issued.

The actions taken by MassDEP are part of a comprehensive strategy that utilizes inspections and enforcement, third-party monitoring data and enhanced outreach, and education and assistance. A major program to help institutions recycle right is RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts.  RecyclingWorks is a MassDEP-funded program that provides practical, free help to businesses to reduce waste and increase recycling.

The Commonwealth’s waste bans include materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal containers, construction materials and leaves and yard waste. The entire list and further descriptions can be found here.

In the Commonwealth’s 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, increased waste ban compliance and enforcement efforts were highlighted as one of the key strategies to move recycling forward and meet the Commonwealth’s goal to reduce disposal by 2 million tons on an annual basis by 2020.

Businesses that receive a notice of non-compliance are required to respond to MassDEP with their plan of action to stop the disposal of banned materials. Businesses that are looking for assistance with increasing recycling and composting can obtain information and assistance through the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program here or by calling 1-888-254-5525.


NYSDEC Coordinates Statewide Campaign to Help New York Residents Recycle Correctly

As anyone in the field of recycling knows, contamination in residential recycling is a hot topic. From wish cycling to tanglers, plastic bags and batteries, recycling educators are tasked with the challenge of helping the public navigate a complex world of packaging and products to help them answer the question, “Is this recyclable?”

In NYS, materials acceptable for recycling can vary from town to town or between haulers within the same town. In addition, there are materials that are recyclable in return-to-retail and drop off programs but they do not belong in curbside bins and household recycling.  Throw in the mobius loop on packaging and products and consumers are left scratching their heads with their local rules and labeling not being in sync.  With China’s national sword policy in 2018, it became clear that contamination in residential recycling, some of which is caused by consumer confusion, had to be addressed.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has been holding recycling stakeholder meetings across the state to address current issues faced by recycling.  On October 12, 2018, DEC hosted a meeting specific to recycling outreach and education. There are many incredible individuals and impressive resources available to inform and educate, but the group realized that we would be strong together with a unified message. An outreach and education subcommittee formed from that meeting to work together on a campaign to help residents recycle properly.  93% of the subcommittee members agreed that tanglers and plastic bags topped their list for important contaminants, followed by batteries, sharps, and non-container glass. The campaign will also focus on how to properly prepare items like aluminum and steel cans, plastic bottles and jugs, and cardboard for recycling. Additionally, the campaign will promote other programs like textile recovery, food diversion and composting, reductions in certain single-use plastics, and plastic bag and film plastic recycling – all efforts to divert more of these materials away from curbside and residential recycling programs where they typically don’t belong.

The committee created a calendar for 2019 that will focus on one item each month and DEC will be providing social media, newsletters, and other materials that municipalities, counties, businesses, non-profits, and others can use throughout the state to integrate into their own recycling education programs and messaging.  A unified message each month will make communications to New Yorkers  stronger and more effective!






















Plastic bags & film Batteries Sharps Non-container glass

Bottles & jugs



To join the subcommittee and receive materials you can use to promote the material of the month contact

Article written by Amy Bloomfield, NY DEC.

Advisory Member News

Municipal Measurement Program Launched

The Recycling Partnership and Re-Trac have announced the official launch of the Municipal Measurement Program (MMP)! The goal of the MMP is to harmonize the measurement of material management programs and to provide municipalities with decision-making tools that can improve recycling program performance.

This free Program Assessment and Planning Tool provides participating municipalities with access to powerful analytical reports designed to measure waste diversion performance and improve programs. 

We encourage all municipalities to join the MMP to unlock the full potential of their municipal data.

Read more.

Get Charged Up for National Battery Day 2019!

Batteries provide many everyday conveniences and are an essential part of our modern world. As battery consumers, part of responsible use includes proper management of batteries once they no longer power devices. So, what do you do with old consumer batteries? You recycle them!

We’re partnering with Call2Recycle for National Battery Day on February 18th to showcase how easy it is to go green with battery recycling! This annual awareness day is the perfect time to Get Charged Up and start year-round battery recycling efforts.

To access National Battery Day resources and learn more about safe battery handling, management and recycling, visit

How to Recycle a Styrofoam Cooler

PPP  Putting a foam cooler in your recycling bin is called “Wish Cycling” because you wish it will be recycled, but it won’t. Most single stream recycling facilities don’t have the technology needed to sort foam from the recycling materials in your bin, so off to the landfill it goes. 

Did you know that foam coolers are made of 98% air and 2% polystyrene plastic? When a cooler is placed inside of our Foam Cycle foam densifying and recycling system, the air is safely removed and the polystyrene that is extruded is sold to end user manufacturers of interior molding and picture frames right here in the USA. 

Enjoy the video and help Foam Cycle connect with your county, municipality or university recycling team so we can introduce our system. And for your efforts, we will send you ... that’s right, a foam cooler filled with Omaha Steaks! 

Email Beth for more information.

Connecticut Recyclers Coalition Conference - February 19

The Conference is shaping up to be a pivotal event for recycling efforts in Connecticut. Guest speakers include:

  • Speaker of the House-Joe Aresimowicz- who will be highlighting the importance of recycling and CT's commitment to developing our recycling landscape and what that may look like.
  • Mary Ann Remolader of NERC will be joining us to discuss MRF glass and the developing market. 
  • Cole Rosengren who is a senior editor with WasteDive 
  • Mallory Szczepanski who is the Editorial Director for Waste360

The event will take place at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.

Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management Collaborates with Organix Solutions Bringing Organics Recycling to Rural Minnesota

In July 2018, Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, a multi-faceted and comprehensive waste and recycling operation located in Alexandria, Minnesota, spearheaded a new Green Bag Organix™ program in the rural Minnesota communities of Glenwood, Osakis and Elbow Lake.

The municipal organics recycling program rollout began with the City of Osakis and as the success of the program became apparent, more cities were excited to join. The participants receive educational materials to review prior to their 1-year supply of Green Bag Organix™ certified compostable bags. The bags and all educational materials ship directly to their homes, ensuring that they are prepared to implement the program in their household. Due to early education and additional outreach efforts, the contamination in the organics-filled compostable bags has remained low and participants are satisfied. Program success would not have been possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of the Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management leadership team and employees.

Organix Solutions has truly enjoyed getting to know the Pope/Douglas team and walking through the new processes that are required for sorting the Green Bag Organix™ compostable bags from the general trash at their facility.

Organix Solutions believes that the best organics recycling programs include hands-on assistance and training, reoccurring organics audits at the facility and ongoing education for residents to ensure success with the launch phase and program growth.

Currently serving 300 households, the organics program has already seen tremendous success in diverting approximately 9,000 pounds of organic waste. The average weight of the collected Green Bags is on par with the average 6-8 pounds of organic waste generated by most households each week.

Most importantly, the Green Bag Organix™ bags are specifically designed to not zipper or tear when punctured and have been able to withstand compression and punctures from curbside collection throughout Pope/Douglas’ waste facility process. The organics-filled compostable bags are then sent to a local composting facility.   

Organic waste is the single largest component in the municipal solid waste stream. Decomposition of organics in a landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. By choosing to provide organics recycling Pope/Douglas is taking the first step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of their overall community.  Pope/Douglas views “organics recycling [as] an important part of effective waste management programs” and through the patented Green Bag Organix™ Co-Collection Program, they eliminate the need for added trucks, routes and containers to collect organics, saving enormous costs and reducing unnecessary CO2 emissions.

Of general interest

2018: A Dramatic Year for Recycling

2018 was a dramatic year for recycling. Let’s look back at some of this year’s main issues and events and give some thought as to what will happen to them next year.

Congress was an unusually bright spot for waste and recycling issues. Earlier this month, the House and Senate passed a Farm Bill that contains a number of food waste-related provisions. These include money for compost and food waste reduction projects, a new “food loss and waste reduction liaison” at the Department of Agriculture and a comprehensive study of food waste. As of this writing, the Farm Bill has not been signed by the president. But it is a bipartisan effort that passed both houses overwhelmingly, so I expect it will be signed. The money to carry out these new programs still needs to be appropriated. We will see how that plays out next year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears to be more favorably disposed toward recycling than it was when the new administration took office. The EPA transition team wanted to zero out the agency’s waste and recycling programs because they are state and local, not federal, issues. As it turned out, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is from New Jersey. I’m sure he heard from more than one constituent reminding him of the importance of EPA’s role in this area. When the budget was finally passed, the federal waste and recycling programs continued to be funded.

EPA also hosted a recycling summit this year on America Recycles Day. While that was not EPA’s first recycling summit (it was the third or fourth by my count), it far outshone the earlier ones in terms of the number of trade and recycling association CEOs who attended and in the fact that EPA’s (acting) administrator was there. They signed a pledge to work together to improve recycling. Not perhaps, the most earthshaking document. Nonetheless, the number and breadth of attendees signaled a strong political base of support and a safe haven for the acting administrator. 

China, of course, remains a problem. Its ban on importing mixed paper and mixed plastics—the mainstays of residential recycling programs—went into effect in March. As paper markets collapsed, some cities abandoned their recycling programs and some recyclables were landfilled. For the most part, however, collection and processing continues unabated while recyclers scramble to find markets.

The good news is that 17 North American paper mills announced plans to expand their capacity to use recycled paper. While old corrugated containers (e.g., cardboard boxes) are the primary beneficiary, one-third of the new projects will include residential mixed paper as a feedstock. One of those should begin operations in less than a year, with the others to follow. Plastic recycling capacity expansions have also been announced. Unfortunately, none of them will take mixed residential plastics, so another processor will have to do the initial separation. 

The big unknown about China is whether or not it will decide to ban importing all recyclables. In July, the Chinese government announced its intention to ban all imports of recyclables, but it did not set a date. Chinese paper mills remain highly reliant on imports of North American and European old corrugated containers. These used boxes have the long fibers the mills need. They continue to be imported. If they are banned, the impact will be highly negative for both Chinese mills and North American and European recyclers. Stay tuned on this one. A ban would be highly irrational, but this wouldn’t be the first time a government acted irrationally.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) continued its streak of thoughtful, rigorous analysis. Its latest publication, “The Significance of Environmental Attributes as Indicators of the Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Packaging and Food Service Ware” has an awkward title; however, its content is stimulating and thought-provoking. Continuing to expand on what Sustainable Materials Management has to offer, ODEQ’s examination of several hundred lifecycle analysis studies challenges the conventional wisdom of “recycled content” and “recyclability.”

As we strive for a greener environment, we need to understand that sustainability and recycling don’t always go the same direction. Whether we opt to be greener and more sustainable or insist that “recycle or die” is the proper course will be an increasingly important debate over the next few years.

Finally, a smaller, but I think quite telling story, comes from San Francisco. The city’s Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance requiring large commercial properties that failed an audit to hire a full-time trash sorter to separate waste, compost and recyclables. This ordinance was prompted by the fact that the amount of landfilled residential and commercial waste has increased every year since 2012. Currently, the city landfills more than 1,450 tons of trash every workday. As it turns out, the city recycles about half of its residential and commercial waste and landfills the rest.

As for what happens in 2019, keep reading Waste360 and tune in for my recap next December. 

Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry and a member of NERC's Board of Directors. He can be reached at