ACC Blog Summit Recap

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The American Chemistry Council launched its second blog summit “Too Valuable To Waste” on April 21. Now in its fourth week, the blog highlights the importance of recycling and education surrounding reducing and reusing in today’s world.

The summit is a conversation between bloggers and readers and addresses the important questions surrounding the current state of recycling, its future and consumer education. According to the ACC, the blog is designed to promote an exchange that will help to advance awareness, understanding and potential solutions for the challenges facing us.

Along with 10 other participants from various recycling organizations, ACC invited Earth911’s Assistant Editor, Amanda Wills, to participate in the summit. Each week, Moderator and ACC Vice President Sharon Kneiss asks the participants a specific question in which they respond to and start conversations with each other and other readers.

Photo: UCLA.edu

"I would not be in this business if I thought we were doing enough. We can always do more." -Patty Moore. Photo: UCLA.edu

So far, the blog posts have generated extensive conversations and even some heated debates. Here are some of the highlights.

Week 1: The State of Recycling

What is the state of recycling today? Are we doing enough? What about the current infrastructure works well? In what areas do we need to do more and/or do it differently? How will economic conditions change the ways in which governments manage their recycling programs and will these changes be temporary or permanent?

Anne JohnsonGreenBlue
“Making recycling a national priority and investing in new technology [is] essential, if recycling is to be anything other than a pastime for the deep green. We need to work from the bottom up and from Obama down to stress the importance of recycling as a national issue. We need to figure out how to finance improvement in sorting technologies (without bankrupting communities, states or business).”

Rachelle StraussMyZeroWaste.com
“In the U.K., I see confusion, a lack of understanding (and facilities in some areas) and apathy surrounding the issue of recycling amongst the majority. I also see a growing movement of people, who DO want to recycle more and care about what they are doing. Although interest in recycling is growing, it seems much of this is because there are increasing fees to pay with landfill tax if targets are not met. This shows a motivation to get away from, rather than a desire to work towards better recycling.”

Amanda WillsEarth911
“One area that recycling programs often overlook is city composting options. While city composting centers are popping up around the country, there’s still a lot of growing to do. Because food and other biodegradable products aren’t able to easily breakdown in a landfill, city composting centers are vital in order to take advantage of these biodegradable products.”

Photo: Ec.gc.ca

"Education in schools needs to change to emphasize the importance of recycling. It should no longer be a fringe activity, but a normalized one." -Rachelle Strauss. Photo: Ec.gc.ca

Week 2: Consumer Education

What needs to be done to improve consumer education about what can and cannot be recycled? How should communities not only inform their citizens of what to recycle, but also encourage them to take action and help spread the knowledge?

Patty MooreMoore Recycling
“Consumers think that recycling is about “stuff.” This is not true. The true value of recycling is not about materials—although it is good materials policy to recycle—it is about energy. Recycling saves a tremendous amount of energy and, as we all know in today’s world, energy = pollution.

“Look at the materials that have a high recycling rate, aluminum being the best example, they are the materials that use a tremendous amount of energy to initially produce, thus recycling aluminum glass, steel, paper etc. saves huge amounts of energy. Making something from recycled uses far less energy than making it out of virgin materials. This is true for plastic too, it is just that manufacturing plastic does not use all that much energy in the first place. This is one of the reasons it is an inexpensive, if hated, material.”

Jeff WoosterDow Chemical
“While visiting with the 6-year-old girl who lives next door (and her mother), I came up with an idea to help consumers understand and remember what to put in their recycling bin: STICKERS. Apparently little girls (and I’d assume little boys too) still like stickers. I guess its good to know we’re not yet an exclusively digital nation. Anyway, the little girl gave me a sticker of a butterfly, which made me think about where I wanted to put it. Normally I put stickers that arrive in the mail from ski areas and university alumni associations and such on my garbage bin so that I’ll be able to easily recognize the bin when its time to collect it from the grouping of bins left at the end of the driveway following garbage collection.”

Amanda WillsEarth911
“Getting on board the social networking train or utilizing the reach of the Internet is the best way cities can connect with its residents. By simply “tweeting” recycling reminders or sending out messages on Facebook, municipalities can inform their communities while saving time, money and paper.”

Photo: Greenergynews.com

"I would counsel the Obama Administration in general terms that recycling must be thought of as resource management rather than waste management, and that the bedrock of any successful recycling policy is accurate and unbiased information." -Bill Carteaux. Photo: Greenergynews.com

Week 3: The Obama Administration

If you had the ability to work with and/or counsel the Obama administration on a national recycling agenda, what are the top three things that you believe would be critical components of the program? How would success of these elements be measured? What key-learnings from other national or international programs would influence your recommendations? And finally, what are the mistakes you think we have learned from others who have tried?”

Jeff WoosterDow Chemical
“The federal government should fund a model community program in Washington D.C. Our nation’s capital should be the sustainability model for the world, which is a far cry from its present state. Improvements could include broader access to recycling, increased infrastructure for collecting, sorting, and processing of recyclables and development of end-use markets.

“Stimulus money could be invested in infrastructure to provide citizens with larger recycling bins for home recycling, placement of collection bins at away-from-home locations throughout the city, and providing the district with a start-up investment in the trucks and high tech sorting equipment that could make the system economically self-sufficient.”

Rachelle StraussMyZeroWaste.com
In short I would:

  • Ban the hundreds of different plastics and composite packaging materials used; we only need a handful.
  • Take away the confusion surrounding recycling by creating a national standard.
  • Motivate people to recycle through monetary incentives.
  • Increase [curbside] and local recycling facilities.

Success is when viewing our rubbish as a resource is a natural to us as getting up in the morning and brushing our teeth. I would like to see a country where landfill collections do not exist because 99 percent of our rubbish is being reused, recycled or composted.

Blaire Pollock – Orange County, N.C.
“The federal agenda should be bent towards creating a nexus of extended producer responsibility (EPR) across the board. In practice this takes various forms. The form I favor most is deposits on ‘everything’ e.g. Sweden has a very large deposit on cars and when your car is ‘done’ you recover the deposit. No junk cars remain on the landscape very long. There was quite a run at a national EPR-type bill for computers and peripherals that went no where, likewise a national bottle deposit bill despite very well run efforts at involving a national dialog, etc.”

Photo: Flickr/pouch_designs

"As post-consumer recycled content packaging and products become more popular, manufacturers will have to get on board in order to remain viable in the industry. Ultimately, this should lead to higher quality products and more eco-friendly production practices." -Amanda Wills. Photo: Flickr/pouch_designs

Week 4: New Trends

What are the new trends in recycled products? How is the average consumer using recycled plastics? How are manufacturers? What new products are being developed that use recycled materials? How will these new products change the manufacturing landscape? What are some new markets for recycled content? How are recycling processes and their products being improved?”

Amanda WillsEarth911
“The coolest thing about recycled products today is that they’re popping up everywhere, from the paper towels we use to the canvas seat cushions in our cars. As consumers become more eco-conscious, they are spending those few extra dollars to get the products with packaging made from recycled products.

I think it’s a easy, significant, way to get on the right path to a greener lifestyle. Unlike installing solar panels or purchasing a hybrid car, becoming more aware of a product’s lifecycle is a green initiative that makes a difference without the larger expense.”

Jeff WoosterDow Chemical
“The really exciting thing about all the new products made from recycled products is that they often work just as well as products made from virgin materials, and the consumer doesn’t have to do anything special to enjoy using them. Businesses understand that consumers want to do the right thing, and making it easy to help conserve our natural resources by using a product made from recycled materials is one easy way to help.”

Your Turn

Earth911 invites you to post your responses to the questions here or on the official ACC Blog Summit Web site. “Too Valuable to Waste” will continue through the end of May and encourages your participation and feedback.

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