Jun. 11—Boulder's Eco-Cycle is joining forces with three other recyclers to form the Alliance of Mission-Based Recyclers, an organization that hopes to advocate for recycling policies and solutions that aid in promoting an economy that eliminates waste and advances the continual use of resources.
According to a news release, the four recyclers that make up the Alliance operate some of the longest running programs in the nation. The other founding members are the Ecology Center in Berkeley, Calif.; Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Recycle Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, Mich.
As "mission-based recycling organizations," each is uniquely positioned to enact change, Kate Bailey, policy and research director at Eco-Cycle, said.
"We're not just an advocacy voice. We're actually grounded in the day-to-day operations," she said.
Eco-Cycle, the nonprofit that, among other things, operates the Boulder County Recycling Center and the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, began with a mission of recycling as a resource conservation solution instead of a waste solution, Deputy Director Marti Matsch said.
"Our goal is to keep carbon in the ground, protect our climate and keep any extracted natural resources in circulation," she said.
With time, however, much of the industry has shifted away from that mindset, Matsch noted.
Initially, the Alliance for Mission-Based Recycling will focus on "stemming the tide" of single-use plastic packaging waste by advocating for several policies, including extended producer responsibility, minimum recycled content policies and deposit-return systems.
"We're at a pivotal point in really reshaping the future of recycling across the country and really understanding where it is valuable and how it can be done right," Bailey said. "When it's not the answer and when we need to look at different ways to address our consumption."
According to the EPA, of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted.
The Alliance argues that instead of "fixing" recycling to accept all plastics, plastic packaging needs to be standardized, reduced and redesigned to protect recycling.
"Someone within the industry has to speak up for people and the planet with honesty and transparency when the public dialogue is dominated by self-interested companies with terrible environmental and social justice track records," Lynn Hoffman, co-president of Eureka Recycling, stated in the news release.
For Bailey, it's important to consider that it's less of a "recycling crisis" and more a "packaging crisis." She said recyclers are "just responding" to the proliferation of plastic put on the market by corporations.
Matsch agreed. Once the Alliance can help producers understand their role and advocate for policy that enforces it, "we can really move much more quickly to the circular economy that we will need to address our climate crisis."