Focus for Municipal Policy to Increase Recycling
Question: Is increasing curbside recycling the right way for municipal recycling policy?
From my perspective its the least complex way of getting participation up. So, its in easy measure and an easy comparison tool. I think that’s the reason why it’s been the focus for so long I think people have tried to use other methods but I don’t think anything works as simply as a comparative tool than just increase recycling rates.
Yes, I’d have to agree with that. I have combed through the literature to try and find empirical results of diminishing per capita waste generation through you know policies to promote buying in bulk or other types of voluntary measures and it’s very hard to bring about on waste prevention! Very hard to bring about on a voluntary level. On the other hand, things like taxes and fees specifically on plastic bags have been shown to diminish consumption of those materials. So, that would be an alternate way to get materials out of the stream (from) going to disposal.
Those are real interesting points and I certainly agree with those. However, I feel maybe there should be more of an emphasis on the aspect of sustainability, which recycling is a part of it and focusing on not doing something isn’t important. I think focusing on doing things – we talk about diversion from the landfill, and I believe even diverting from the recycling stream by reducing waste in the first place, reducing that generation is a very meritorious effort. It may be harder to measure. We can look at put-out rates and waste generation rates and I think recycling is a good thing to have some focus on, but more important that I even think sustainability principles using the triple bottom line such as people, profit, and planet is kind of a bigger goal.
The industry as a whole has done an incredible job over the past ten years on their light weighting of packaging and that’s something that most people aren’t even aware I think the one area where people kind of see it a little bit is that in plastic water bottles – the disposable ones. People can kind of tell when they’re empty. They feel pretty flimsy. But, with the exception of that a lot of people don’t even notice some of the light weighting that’s occurring in the industry. So, I think there has already been a lot of success achieved in that area. But, I think there are product stewardship issues, targeted materials that still can be the focus of some future efforts.
Author, Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action
International Vice President, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA)