Recycle Across America Uses Labeling to Ease Recycling Crisis

MINNEAPOLIS — The country is in the midst of a recycling crisis, as the Worldwatch Institute predicts global municipal solid waste will double by 2025. Minneapolis-headquartered Recycle Across America is trying to ease the problem with one simple solution: consistent labeling.

Even though Americans have been recycling since the 1970s, there have been a lot of misconceptions about what can be recycled. Different states, cities and even recycling plants recycle different items, making it very difficult to decipher what can or cannot be thrown into a recycling bin.

Diapers, food products and unwanted glass contaminate the nation’s recycling stream, driving up the cost of recyclables, which in turn prevents manufacturers from wanting to recycle in the first place. With that come recycling-plant closures. The largest recycling hauler in the U.S. closed 25 percent of its recycling plants in the past couple years, and the state of California — often at the forefront of green efforts — closed more than 450 recycling plants this year alone, according to Recycle Across America’s website.

To combat these recycling woes, nonprofit Recycle Across America created consistent stick-on labels in a variety of sizes and shapes for recycling companies to place on bins. Images and messaging on the labels depict exactly what can and cannot go into the bins.

Schools and businesses are some of the first establishments to join the Recycle Across America movement and are already showing results. The University of Denver reported a 90 percent improvement in recycling after adding labels to recycle bins only a few years ago, and San Diego Unified School District has already saved $200,000 in trash hauling fees as a result of its recycling efforts, reported Recycle Across America.

The news gets even better for educational facilities, as Recycle Across America facilitates corporate donations to bring free standardized labels to K-12 schools. There are currently 400,000 standardized labels in schools, and Recycle Across America has a current goal of donating 1 million by the end of this year. One of the best examples of this type of partnership was Bank of America’s standardized-label donation to the K-12 schools at Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla. The result: The school district saved $369,000 in trash-hauling fees and increased its recycling levels by 90 percent.