Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), joins the conversation to explore the evolution of the circular economy and how the role of recycling will evolve. Today’s recycling infrastructure is closely aligned with the waste management system. There are growing signs that the reuse of products is essential and that recycling services can be built into the product lifecycle as the last step when no more reuse is possible. But the challenge recyclers face, along with the rest of us, is the limited range of choices in recyclable materials used in products and packaging. Consumer goods and packaging companies must simplify their designs, abandoning hard-to-recycle materials that cannot be processed by the equipment currently available in local recycling facilities.
Recycling has gotten a bad rap in recent years, and only sometimes for good reasons. Robin explains that when we talk about the overall plastic recycling rate, which is an abysmal five to six percent, we miss that some materials, like PET beverage bottles, are collected and processed at much higher rates. Many materials can be collected at even higher rates when states put deposit programs in place to encourage their return for recycling. For now, each of us can look closely at products before we buy them to understand whether we can recycle them when finished using them. You can learn more about ISRI at https://www.isri.org/