Global Recycling Day: New Data Shows How SmartLabel Can Help Close Gaps in Recycling

On Global Recycling Day, we’re putting the spotlight on our mission to close the gap in recycling rates across the country, through policy solutions and innovation to better meet the needs of every consumer. Our partners at The Recycling Partnership released a new report, “State of Recycling: Present and Future of Residential Recycling in the U.S.,” that shows the continued gaps in keeping products in the circular economy and out of landfills — and what policy and innovation can fill in.

Currently, only 21% of recyclable material is being recycled — with a whopping 76% of it lost in homes and not even making it to collection. Moreover, less than half (43%) of households actively participate in recycling, which is attributable to insufficient access and communication among those that do not or cannot recycle. According to The Recycling Partnership, “the greatest gains will come from investment and action to increase household engagement in recycling.”

At Consumer Brands, we have long asserted that remedying the problems with America’s recycling system is an undertaking that will be impactful when all players in the value chain do their part. The Recycling Partnership outlined five components needed to enable a successful system:

  1. 100% of packaging needs to be recyclable;
  2. 100% of households need access to recycling from their home;
  3. Residents need to fully engage in recycling;
  4. Recycling facilities need to effectively process 95% of the material; and
  5. Recycling facilities need sufficient end markets.

The study showed that currently, just 73% of households have access to recycling. While closer to its target of 95%, 87% of facilities are currently able to process recyclables. However, they estimate less than half of all plastic packaging is recyclable and there are not enough end markets for communities to no longer bear the burden of the processing costs alone.

SmartLabel’s partnership with The Recycling Partnership is an effort to mitigate the lost recyclables and both boost and encourage active participation in recycling. With the scan of a QR code and enabling location services, this package-specific, data-driven solution grants anyone access to their local recycling rules – eliminating confusion about what to do with the product they’re holding. According to The Recycling Partnership, 78% of consumers think a QR code would make recycling less confusing. With this collaborative approach between SmartLabel and The Recycling Partnership, we hope to empower more consumers to become active recycling participants.

Read The Recycling Partnership’s full report here and our companion Global Recycling Day blog to learn what we’re advocating for at the policy level to raise the national recycling rate.