Rebuilding recycling to go circular

May 19, 2020 by  
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Rebuilding recycling to go circular Keefe Harrison Mon, 05/18/2020 – 18:18 This article is part of our Paradigm Shift series, produced by nonprofit PYXERA Global, on the diverse solutions driving the transition to a circular economy. See the full collection of stories and upcoming webinars with the authors  here . After the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the world will need solutions to repair our economy in a way that protects both the planet and its people. The circular economy is a solution for our future health and wellness and recycling has a vital role to play. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. As companies ramp up their circular economy goals, they’re often based on the concept that recycling will be the workhorse and catch-net of a bigger system. The truth is, that system is not yet a reality. Recycling isn’t just a thing you do when you’re done drinking your bottle of water or reading the morning paper. It’s a system supported by hundreds of thousands of employees, generating billions of dollars in economic activity, and conserving precious natural resources. However, while it can feel as though it’s a singular service, in fact it represents a loosely connected, highly interdependent network of public and private interests. The U.S. census tells us there are about 20,000 local governments, each independently responsible for deciding what to recycle, how to recycle, or whether to offer recycling services at all. This collection of disaggregated waste management decisions is a challenging start of the “reverse supply chain” that is recycling. The Recycling Partnership’s 2020 State of U.S. Curbside Recycling Report addresses a system that is causing some communities to abandon their programs, but also shows an overwhelming majority of communities across the country still committed to providing household recycling services. Americans continue to value and demand recycling as an essential public service according to The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Earth Day survey. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The time to transform the way we think about and manage waste is now. Conceptually, recycling is and has been the “gateway” for a circular economy worldview to take hold in our society. In this transition, it’s critically important to seize on the cultural momentum that recycling has inspired, because behavior change takes so much longer than many other solvable challenges in the transition from linear to circular. Citizens can feel disheartened by the realization that our efforts to recycle are often in vain. Consider the following statistics: More than 20 million tons of curbside recyclable materials are sent to landfills annually Curbside recycling in the United States currently recovers only 32 percent of available recyclables in single-family homes If the remaining 20 million tons were recycled, it would generate 370,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs It also would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of CO2  equivalent AND conserve an annual energy equivalent of 154 million barrels of oil OR the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways While recycling feels universal, only half of the American population has access to curbside recycling . Before we can implore a public to recycle, they need to be guaranteed the ability to do so. Many communities increasingly pay more to recycle , sometimes double the cost of landfilling  — and many more programs lack critical operating funds. Policy can and should help community recycling programs to improve by addressing challenging market conditions, providing substantial funding support and resolving cheap landfill tipping fees that make disposal options significantly less expensive than recycling. A truly circular economy — one that takes us off the perilous take-make-waste path — can’t be built on the shaky foundation of the current U.S. recycling system just described. It needs to be shored up, supported, rebuilt and reinvigorated. Most important, it cannot work properly without the aligned efforts from all members of industrial supply chains. Recycling is not just something that citizens do to feel good about buying something — it also provides a circular manufacturing feedstock that displaces newly extracted materials. It is needed by manufacturing to make new products, reduce environmental impact and achieve a more positive economic result. This is true for mature industries such as paper mills and aluminum smelters and for developing end markets such as chemical recycling. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Strong, coordinated action is needed in areas including package design and labeling, capital investments, scaled adoption of best management practices, policy interventions, and consumer engagement. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. A three-step plan to ensure recycling supports the circular economy 1. Support for local recycling programs with policies and capital Local political support for recycling needs to be strengthened, such that municipalities are meeting the expectations of most Americans: recycling bins alongside trash cans, the contents of which are being recycled. All this needs to be supported at the federal level with policies that incentivize adoption and reduce confusion around recycling. It also means continued innovation in the collection, sorting and general recyclability of materials, including the building of flexibility and resiliency to add new materials into the system. 2. Significant investment in domestic infrastructure and end markets An extensive series of targeted investments is needed to deliver a deeper integration of circular manufacturing feedstock into the supply chain. This will help provide the carts to collect the recyclables, the trucks to pick them up and the facilities to sort it all out. There also needs to be a deepened commitment to support both existing end markets such as cardboard, bottles and cans, and new end markets, such as chemical recycling, to keep more packaging and materials in the economy and more molecules in motion. As published in The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Bridge to Circularity Report, $250 million over the next five years could launch an innovation fund to design and implement the recycling system of the future using advanced technology, building more robust data systems and enhancing consumer participation. 3. Broad stakeholder engagement We need more than the involvement of dozens of the biggest companies in the world. When you go to the store, it is not a monolithic experience. We don’t buy all our stuff from one brand, one company or one packaging material. Those leading companies shouldn’t be the only ones taking part in this transition. Every aspect of the recycling system that feeds into the circular economy needs to be involved — from the design of the materials on store shelves for efficient recovery and recyclability to the community, infrastructure and end market components mentioned in the previous two steps. It’s clear that unless stakeholders from across the value chain align and conform to the circular economy, we will not be able to drive the change necessary to move recycling in the United States to that place where no more waste is going to the landfill. It will take bold public-private partnerships and leadership to make lasting improvements. Recycling cannot solve for the circular economy, but the circular economy could solve recycling. Now is the time for action. To learn more from the leaders of the circular economy transition, visit  PYXERA Global . Pull Quote A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Contributors Dylan de Thomas Topics Circular Economy Recycling Paradigm Shift Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock franz12 Close Authorship

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Rebuilding recycling to go circular

Earth911 Quiz #84: Earth Day Goals for 2030

April 23, 2020 by  
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Quick, what are the key goals for reducing human impacts … The post Earth911 Quiz #84: Earth Day Goals for 2030 appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #84: Earth Day Goals for 2030

ReGen Villages plans smart, circular communities in Sweden

April 22, 2020 by  
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Silicon Valley-based  ReGen Villages  has teamed up with Swedish architecture firm  White Arkitekter  to develop ReGen Villages Sweden, a vision for smart, self-sufficient communities throughout the Scandinavian country. Developed to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the proposal combines a wide variety of high- and low-tech environmentally friendly systems from organic gardens for local food production to the integration of artificial intelligence on a community-wide scale. The two firms hope to break ground on a ReGen Villages Sweden pilot project in 2020.  The ReGen Villages concept is based on five core principles: high-yield organic and ecological food production, mixed renewable energy and storage systems, water and waste recycling,  energy-positive  architecture and the empowerment of local communities. Each ReGen Village would measure approximately 250,000 square meters with only a quarter of the site occupied by buildings, including around 250 to 300 houses. The rest of the area will be used for farming and food production, energy production and water management.  Key to the design of ReGen Villages is the integration of Village OS, a ReGen Villages Holding-developed system based on AI technology and machine learning. Like the technology used in “ smart homes ,” Village OS will use computer systems to monitor all aspects of the community, from farming and recycling to residents’ energy and water usage. The local housing cooperative can use Village OS from a central hub to run the community’s daily operations, which will be optimized over time through collected data. Related: This train station which doubles as city hall in Sweden will function as an “urban living room” “Scalable, innovative solutions are the answers to the challenges of the future,” said James Ehrlich, founder of ReGen Villages Holding. “The collaboration with White will give  Sweden  and the Nordics the world’s first economically, ecologically and socially sustainable communities for ordinary people.” ReGen Villages has spent the past four years meeting with Swedish municipalities, landowners, property developers and stakeholders to push the project forward. White Arkitekter will handle the overall site planning and design of the community’s energy-positive architecture. + White Arkitekter Images via White Arkitekter

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ReGen Villages plans smart, circular communities in Sweden

Andy Tomkins brings Canon’s new circular focus into view

March 13, 2020 by  
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The sustainability engagement manager explains the goals of working for the common good with a circular business model that makes sense economically.

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Andy Tomkins brings Canon’s new circular focus into view

UN Global Compact’s Marie Morice on where we are with the Sustainable Development Goals

February 26, 2020 by  
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Marie Morice, head of sustainable finance at the U.N. Global Compact, says that there’s strong interests with corporates for the Sustainable Development Goals — often referred to as SDGs — but with many of goals, “we’re not there yet.”

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UN Global Compact’s Marie Morice on where we are with the Sustainable Development Goals

Rushing to go nowhere: How can we make more progress on diversity in the corporate sector?

February 21, 2020 by  
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If we are to make any significant progress on critical issues such as ending poverty and climate change, as set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals, we will need everyone at the table.

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Rushing to go nowhere: How can we make more progress on diversity in the corporate sector?

New UN Global Compact initiative aims to spur private sector progress towards the SDGs

January 29, 2020 by  
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A new management tool for embedding considerations related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals into day-to-day business processes.

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New UN Global Compact initiative aims to spur private sector progress towards the SDGs

How CEOs, experts and philosophers see the world’s biggest risks differently

January 29, 2020 by  
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The differences highlight how the groups tend to think — in economic and ethical terms.

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How CEOs, experts and philosophers see the world’s biggest risks differently

How the Textile Exchange’s new index aims to make a material difference

January 20, 2020 by  
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A new tool, released today, aims to push apparel and home furnishings companies further toward sustainability, and ramps up efforts by the textile and fashion industries to align material choices with the Sustainable Development Goals.

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How the Textile Exchange’s new index aims to make a material difference

Collaborative resource planning by utilities and customers benefits both

December 5, 2019 by  
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By working together, each side can achieve their goals far more quickly.

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Collaborative resource planning by utilities and customers benefits both

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