In 2021, Eunomia Research & Consulting and the Ball Corporation released the inaugural edition of the 50 States of Recycling Report, a first-of-its-kind state-by-state comparable assessment of common packaging materials based on 2018 data. This calculation set a baseline in each state that can be used to inform policy, design programs, and assess infrastructure needs.
The 50 States of Recycling 2.0 Provides:
- Updated data and rankings of state recycling rates by material type
- Analysis of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of both current recycling rates and possible optimal recycling rates
- Models the potential impact of recycling policies including:
- Modernized Recycling Refunds (also known as Deposit Return Systems or Bottle Bills) in the Northeast
- Performance of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy only vs. EPR +Recycling Refunds (RR) in two states- Washington and Colorado.
We hope this data and analysis will help equip policymakers and industry partners with the information needed to maximize economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
To learn more, read the press release.
Today only 24% of U.S. waste is actually recycled, and only 15% is recycled in a closed loop, but we can and must do better. Based on the report findings, we know:
On average, recycling rates across states have stagnated and some of the largest shifts between 2018 and 2021 are the result of the inclusion of new and more accurate data released since 2018. This shows the need for continued action to improve U.S. recycling systems.
Collection and recycling are not synonymous.
We must measure real recycling and prioritize the recycling of high value materials instead of collecting non-recyclable contaminants that make the entire system less effective.
Closed loop recycling maximizes recycling benefits. States with Recycling Refunds (RR) have significantly higher closed loop recycling rates than non-RR States.
We must prioritize the closed loop recycling. Keeping materials in use for as long as possible maximizes social, environmental, and economic benefits. RR states recycle 34% of material packaging through closed loop end markets compared to 7% for non-RR states.
Increasing recycling rates can support the fight against climate change and unlock economic potential.
Recycling results in the avoidance of over 79 million MTCO2e in the US annually. U.S. recycling industry only captures about 32% of the total value of material in the packaging waste stream.
Together EPR & RR Achieve the Highest Recycling Rates.
When implemented together well-designed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Recycling Refunds* (RR) will accelerate the implementation and the ability to achieve higher recycling rates within a shorter period. Policymakers at the state and federal level must prioritize enacting well-design EPR +RR recycling policy and legislation together to deliver the best social, environmental, and economic outcomes.
As legislators and business leaders seek to increase recycling rates and boost the environmental, economic and social impact of recycling across the United States, well-designed policy will be required. The two policies that can drive up recycling rates, support closed loop recycling and maximize supply to domestic markets are Recycling Refunds for beverage containers and Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging and paper products.
The 10 States with Recycling Refunds Represent...
CLOSED LOOP RECYCLING RATESA closed loop system enables materials to not only be collected and repurposed once but channeled back into systems multiple times.
Currently less than 20% of all packaging (not including FFP) generated in the U.S. is of sufficient quality to be recycled through closed loop processes.
RR states recycle more material in a closed loop than non-RR states.
ENVIRONMENTAL & ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF RECYCLING
When expressed as a monetary benefit, the total environmental and economic value of recycling in the U.S. is approximately $35 billion, accounting for gross value, employment income from recycling-related jobs and greenhouse gas impact reduction – comparable to removing more than 17 million vehicles from the roads. If effective recycling policies were enacted nationwide, such as pairing Extended Producer Policy alongside Recycling Refunds, the benefit of recycling would double to $70 billion.