Recycling programs have primarily been add-ons to local communities' "waste management" plans. But this is upside down. The centerpiece of community collection program should be materials recovery, with garbage secondary, representing only what cannot be recycled. Focusing on developing resource management systems will maximize recycling's many environmental, economic, and development benefits, while citizens' discards will still all be collected and public health preserved.

The following series of four articles adapts concepts from the Single Stream Recycling Best Practices Manual to recommend recycling program designs that better support increased recycled product manufacturing, both domestically and globally. While the focus is on single stream programs because they have generated the greatest controversy, the concepts are applicable to all types of recycling programs.




Recycling must play a leading role in creating more environmentally sustainable manufacturing methods, but it can only do this if recycling program managers step back, look at how best to encourage a vibrant, complete recycling system in a changing world, and make sure that the changes made will serve the dynamic promise of recycling both now and also in the future.

Reprinted from Resource Recycling, August 2007



Recycling and recycled materials are the natural foundation for increasing the sustainability of production. But to play this critical role, materials recovery must become the centerpiece of community collection programs, with garbage collection the secondary focus - only handling that which cannot be recycled. The recycling system must be upgraded to reliably provide more high-quality manufacturing feedstocks. Improvements in each part of the recycling system must be coordinated to benefit and strengthen every other part of the whole recycling system as well.

Reprinted from Resource Recycling, November 2007



Collection is the most visible part of the recycling cycle to the public, as well as to most community recycling program staff. People tend to believe that collection is the definition of recycling - whcn it is actually only one part of it. Establishing a program to collect and process recyclables is not enough. Each step of the process must be well-planned to achieve optimal results.

Reprinted from Resource Recycling, January 2008



Processing has become the weak link, jeopardizing the future of the recycling system. Without investments in high-quality processing, today's recycling programs may collect more but ultimately recycle less than programs in the past. The result may support only a narrow mix of recycled product options, instead of integrating recycling into a wide range of products that could maximize resource conservation. How can processing be improved to support the new features of recycling programs?

Reprinted from Resource Recycling, March 2008









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