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“Is recycling broken?” It’s a question I am frequently asked. The answer is that recycling is not “broken” – but as it stands, it is still too specialized to reach the goal of achieving a complete circular economy. To achieve this goal, we need to embrace the opportunities that recycling can offer – a mass market solution that’s affordable and available to everyone, everywhere.
At present, only 9% of the plastic made each year is recycled, which is nowhere near the level required to create an environment where we have enough resources for all the people around the world. Even accounting for the fact that almost half of plastic remains in use more than a year after being placed in the market (i.e. electronics, automobile parts, furniture, pipe and such) there is still tremendous opportunity to grow recycling. And with the pandemic causing recycling efforts to take an even greater hit, it is more important now than ever to improve recycling efforts as society aims to build back better – or as I like to say, build forward better.
The good news is that we are on the path to achieving higher levels of recycling adoption through efforts to expand recycling operations, increase consumer demand for recycled products, and innovation in the space – but there is still much more work to be done. And while the task might seem daunting, I believe we can prioritize three key areas in order to achieve mass adoption of recycling around the world.