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How Much Of Our Waste Stream Should We Be Able To Recycle? Setting The Right Target Is The Main Goal

Posted by Emily Bellmore on 3/6/2015 to Public Education

Waste 360 who supplies news, information and resources that help steer your course of action towards sustainable materials management, recently wrote an article pertaining to recycling rates and how finding the right target is proving to be more difficult than it seems. We wanted to share the summary of this article and the goal Waste 360 projects for this important topic.

So how much of our waste stream can actually be recycled? The answer seems obvious, but when you look more in depth at the question, we must decide what the term "recycling" is. From there, you'll need to look into what is being recycled and what your recycling goals are going to be. As the story states, "anything can be recycled, so why not set a goal of 100 percent?" Some skeptics argue that not all things can be recycled. The clear goal is to reach that one hundred percent mark, but laws of decreasing returns make that goal close to impossible. So how do reach that Zero Waste objective?

According to the article, the answer to that question "is found in the politics of state and local legislative bodies. This is because recycling goals are often political statements." Recycling goals for the state are rated anywhere from zero to seventy-five percent. This is a wide-range scope and many target shares are divided by the number five. This contributes to when state legislature or a local government sets a goal, and the politicians then have a hard task at hand making that goal obtainable. Contrary to that, whatever is happening at the moment adds to current political prospects and needs at that time.

The concern is that the target number is too high. Costs and political involvement are not supporting that number, therefore achieving that goal seems out of reach. Two states, including Florida and California are setting high recycling goals and are working to achieve higher recycling rates but aren't seeing the results they want. That's because they are introducing "waste to energy" into their current tactics for managing waste, and some argue that this is not considered "recycling."

So what can we do to achieve the 100 percent recycling target goal? Waste 360 believes that in order to do so, three things need to happen. The first, is to "get serious and start setting achievable goals based on facts, not wishes. Secondly, start taking economics and the law of diminishing returns into account. Lastly, accepting the reality that getting more people to recycle is a behavior change challenge that isn't happening overnight."

What do you think is a reasonable recycling goal? What kind of goals do you think we'll have to set to achieve a zero waste way of life? Share your thoughts with us!