(U.S. Air Force Photo, by Dave Smith)

Re:CAP Recommends | Is Recycling Broken?

June 7, 2017

Re:CAP Recommends: Is Recycling Broken? by Elizabeth Daigneau for Governing

Who: Daigneau is the Managing Editor of GOVERNING. Daigneau joined GOVERNING in 2004 as an assistant web editor. In addition to her editing duties, she writes about energy and the environment for the magazine. Before joining GOVERNING, she was the assistant to the editor at Foreign Policy magazine. She graduated from American University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and literature. 

What: Large-scale urban recycling operations come with many hindrances: contamination by non-recyclable products, confusion on part of recyclers, and the high cost of processing the materials, to name a few. And there’s no one solution to all of the problems. Take, for example, the problems of low recycling rates and high cost. While single-stream recycling has increased recycling rates and made it easier for us recyclers to throw things in the bin without sorting it, it becomes more expensive to pay employees to sort the materials at the waste facility.

Takeaway: Creative, dynamic solutions are essential to addressing the challenges faced when dealing with recyclable waste. These strategies could take many forms: community education inniatives on recyclable materials; reconstructed contracts that make the city pay facilities for waste intake; banning hard-to-recycle materials (as plastic bags in California have been); or even producer responsibility, where the producers of goods bear some of the economic burden of dealing with waste they create—a tool used in Europe and Canada. It’s imperative that we innovate and collaborate in order to make recycling work in our cities.

Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu