We often think of recycling only on a local level, such as what goes in the household blue bin or when is the next community electronics recycling day. That will hopefully soon change with the launch of Global Recycling Day (GRD) on March 18.
GRD is a day to not just celebrate the importance of recycling, but to effect change among world leaders and reinforce recycling as a global industry with one united voice. We spoke with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), one of the inaugural GRD sponsors, to learn more about GRD and how you can participate.
The Beginning of a Movement
This international celebration has been planned for years, as the idea was first announced at the 2015 World Recycling Convention by Ranjit S. Baxi, president of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR). The date is also symbolic, as March 18, 2018, marks the 70th birthday of BIR.
BIR publicly announced the date and campaign in May 2017, allowing almost a full year of planning and promotion.
“There was a desire to raise awareness of the importance of recycling globally,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “We’re encouraging the world to think of [recycling] scrap as the planet’s seventh resource.”
For those unfamiliar with the six natural resources, they are air, coal, minerals, natural gas, oil and water. These represent the basics from which we create food and manufactured goods, as well as power our homes and cars. All of them are in limited supply, and increasing our global recycling rates will help preserve all six.
The reason this effort is global is because resources are a Planet Earth issue, not something only affecting America or other countries.
“We want to increase the understanding of recycling with global leaders and policymakers,” Wiener says. “It was important for ISRI to be involved because we’re the voice of the recycling industry and our influence in the recycling space will help achieve the objectives.”
A Day of Global Action
In America, we are familiar with America Recycles Day (ARD), which takes place every Nov. 15 and consists of pledges to recycle, along with local events that cover activities such as collecting materials for recycling and cleaning parks. Getting involved locally is always a great idea, but GRD aims to create action on a bigger scale — the focus is to change the discussion surrounding recycling.
“We’re using this event as an opportunity to showcase the role recycling plays globally,” Wiener says. “We’re working with the Trump Administration and, in coordination with the BIR, leaders in other countries around the world to create a single voice on recycling.”
One of the priorities of GRD is to increase the understanding of what is scrap and what is waste and how they are different. Waste is something you get rid of — dispose of — because it is no longer useful or needed. Recyclables have value and are used to make new products. After all, scrap currently is used to satisfy an estimated 40 percent of the world’s raw material needs.
“We have a major issue in almost every region of the world in differentiating what is waste and what is a recyclable,” Wiener says. “When scrap is confused with and included within the term ‘waste,’ it often dampens recycling with inappropriate legal restrictions in the form of regulations meant to only address the waste stream.”
Wiener further referenced China’s 2017 ban on importing 24 different scrap materials, which resulted in part from confusion over what is waste and what is a legitimate recyclable needed to supply manufacturing.
“What happened in China shines a light on the importance of quality in the recycling stream,” Wiener says. “We need a recycling stream that supplies high-quality material and reduces contamination.”
One of the goals of GRD is to implement and strengthen international agreements that promote recycling and encourage free trade of scrap across country lines.
The Consumer Component
At this point, you may be asking how you can get involved on March 18 if you’re not an international leader. The success of GRD depends on two areas where you can help:
- There’s a Change.org petition to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that already has nearly 5,000 signatures. The goal is to have at least 8,000.
- GRD is looking for 5,000 or more followers on social media, and there are plenty of ways to get involved in the discussion. The campaign has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and will be using the hashtag #globalrecyclingday. The Facebook campaign alone already has nearly 3,000 followers.
The petition in particular outlines several ways that world governments can play a better role in the recycling industry, including better public education and encouraging manufacturers to design their products with recycling in mind.
“ISRI has been involved in advising manufacturers to Design for Recycling for more than 25 years,” Wiener says. “This includes limiting the use of hazardous substances that may prevent recycling, as well as ensuring that consumer products can be safely and economically recycled, using existing recycling technology and methods, when removed from service. Examples include not using multiple polymers [for packaging] that might influence the recycling market. These factors should be considered in the product design phase, just like cost and safety.”
For the education component, it’s important that we recognize the size and scope of the recycling industry.
“People often think recycling is just the blue bin at the end of the driveway,” Wiener adds. “Recycling is a $100 billion industry that supports 500,000 jobs in the U.S. alone. It’s also integral to our manufacturing supply chain.”
You can sign the petition or follow the social media accounts anytime before March 18, so no reason to delay.
That’s right, you can participate in a global phenomenon about the importance of recycling without putting a single aluminum can or cardboard box in the blue bin. Even if the goals have already been met by the time you read this story, your participation is crucial in showing global leaders that all countries want to come together to promote our seventh resource.
Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. ISRI is one of these partners.