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  • Writer's pictureEd Ehlers

Forty Percent of Your Recycling Effort is Wasted

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“I already pay my trash company for recycling,” you think.

But, in reality, you pay your trash company for trash service. They may or may not recycle the material you placed out as recycling. According to The Recycling Partnership, "Curbside recycling in the U.S. currently recovers only 32% of available recyclables." [1] Of that abysmal number, nearly 40% still ends up in the landfill. What does this mean? If there are ten recoverable resources, only three make it to a recycling facility. Once at the facility, only 1 resource may actually be recycled.

Many factors contribute to this incredibly poor performance including, but not limited to, diversity of resources, restrictive traditional programs, complexity of alternative programs, and lack of access to facilities.

These days you need a PhD to understand what is and is not recyclable. While one takeout food container is made of #1 plastic resin, another nearly identical container is made of #6 resin. A clothes hanger is metal; so, shouldn’t it go in the recycle bin with the other metals? Most recycle programs take plastic but only resin code number one and two items. Other programs may take resin code number five also, but "check with your local facility first." (A useless phrase that has become the catch all response for all recycling issues.) Glass is generally no longer accepted at the curbside.

Most traditional curbside programs are very restrictive in terms of the types of resources accepted. In the Clifton, VA area, curbside recycling only accepts 6 recovery streams – resin code number one and number two plastics (bottle shaped), mixed paper, cardboard, and aluminum and steel cans. You can understand why only 32% of available recyclables are making it to a recycling facility.

A motivated person could increase the amount they recover by utilizing other programs. Glass Recycling Purple Bins are scattered around the county, and you can bring your glass to them. But only glass bottles and jars, other types of glass are not accepted. Many big box stores have bins for plastic film. However, plastic film can be confusing. Grocery bags, newspaper sleeves, dry cleaning bags, and bubble wrap are only a few examples of plastic film, but plastic sleeves for cut flowers and most flexible plastic packaging are not considered plastic film. These programs are great but are complex and confusing.

Most specialty facilities and programs are out of the way and inconvenient. Metal recycling is very beneficial but there are few scrap yards around making accessibility an issue. Electronic recycling is also great but many times access to a facility is very inconvenient, never mind knowing what is actually considered an electronic.

The Resource Recovery Project eliminates all the above and increases recovery rate from an estimated 18% to over 96%! [2]

There are only two rules for Resource Recovery – clean & dry and fits in the provided reusable, durable collection bag. That’s it.

We hand sort all items into 29 recovery streams. Recall that many current recycling programs take only six streams. We understand the diverse nature of the resources, so you don’t have to. We have access to programs and facilities so that nearly 100% of your resources are either repurposed, rehomed, reused, or recycled.

You might even be able to trash your trash service.

Between Resource Recovery Project membership and composting, many current members do not use traditional trash service any longer. They have actually saved money because traditional trash service was more expensive than resource recovery and composting combined.

To make the most of your recycling efforts, consider becoming a member of the Resource Recovery Project.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

The Resource Recovery Project is pioneering true, single-stream, curbside resource recovery. We challenge the idea that recycling is not easy, cheap, efficient, or effective - it can be! We collect most resources (except liquids, organics & food, and medical waste) as long as it is clean & dry. We find the highest and best use for collected resources - reuse, repurpose, rehome, and recycle.

If you are in the greater Clifton, VA area, we invite you to make the most of your recycling efforts and join The Resource Recovery Project (RRP).

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