We’ve already written about the recycling rates across different materials and countries, along with the potential challenges of recycling.
In the guide below however, we list some potential ideas and solutions for increasing recycling rates, and improving recycling across society.
Summary – How To Increase Recycling Rates, & Improve Recycling
A summarized list of the ideas outlined in the guide below include:
Understand The Key Variables That Impact Recycling
Understand The Factors That Impact The Economic Viability Of Recycling
Consider The Impact & Net Benefit Of Subsidies & Public Funding For Recycling
Incentives & Credits, & Penalties
Improve Recycling Infrastructure
Consider How Changes At Different Waste Lifecycle Stages Can Impact Recycling
Auditing & Tracking Of Recycling Programs
More Education On Recycling & Waste Management
Other Potential Solutions For Improving Recycling
Reduce Generation Of Waste
Tradeoffs With Changes In Recycling
It’s worth noting that changes in recycling will have tradeoffs to consider – economic, practical, environmental, social, and so on.
Case Studies Involving Recycling Rates
We’ve put together two case studies that examine recycling rates in different ways:
1. Understand The Key Variables That Impact Recycling
Primarily, the type of material being recycled, and the waste management system in the individual city or town:
– Type Of Material Or Item Being Recycled
Different materials, and different items are easier to recycle compared to others, and some make much more financial sense to recycle compared to others.
For example, some plastics can be recycled, and some can’t.
– Waste Management Systems In Each City Or Town
Different cities and towns worldwide have different waste management systems, programs and capabilities when it comes to managing waste.
So, when improving the recycling systems in a given city or town, the individual city or town’s waste management system needs to be taken into account.
2. Understand The Factors That Impact The Economic Viability Of Recycling
Understanding the different factors and variables can help implement more practical and economically feasible recycling strategies.
3. Consider The Impact & Net Benefit Of Subsidies & Public Funding For Recycling
Governments provide a certain amount of public funding for recycling in some cities and towns.
Subsidies are on example of this public funding.
The true impact and net benefit of these public sources of funding should be carefully considered.
Some taxpayers may argue that they are happy for their tax money to go towards recycling, as long as it’s to recycle waste that makes strong economic and environmental sense to do so.
So, consideration of this funding might lead to better allocating funding to the areas of recycling that can be most effective and useful.
4. Incentives & Credits, & Penalties
i.e. encouraging/promoting desirable recycling behaviors and solutions, and disincentivizing undesirable behaviors
Citizens and businesses that meet certain recycling goals or thresholds may receive some form of credit, whilst those that don’t may receive some form of penalty, or may just not have access to that credit
5. Improve Recycling Infrastructure
– Upgrade Recycling Infrastructure
Upgrading recycling infrastructure for more effective recycling can include a range of things such as changing the waste streams available for municipal curbside collection, upgrading collection/hauling trucks, upgrading recycling facilities, and so on
Upgrading recycling facilities for example may have the effect of increasing the capacity and capabilities of the overall recycling systems in place (to handle more waste, and recycle waste in different ways)
– New Technology
New technology and technology developments could help specific recycling industries.
– New Recycling Processes
6. Consider How Changes At Different Waste Lifecycle Stages Can Impact Recycling
Changes at the different lifecycle stages might lead to more efficient recycling, being able to recycle a greater range of waste, and increasing the capacity and capabilities of the overall recycling systems in place (to handle more waste, and recycle waste in different ways)
Using more efficient recycling as one example, there’s several solutions that could be pursued such as better waste disposal by citizens and businesses, more efficient waste collection and hauling, changing the type of waste sent to recycling facilities, and so on.
Some parts of the world are already trialling clear wheelie bins (so other residents and garbage collectors can see what is inside people’s bins) and dump truck cameras (for further monitoring) to increase accountability for citizens and businesses to sort and dispose of their waste properly into the different waste streams.
Another potential solution at the producer stage might be to re-design materials and products to be easier to recycle.
This can be important for e waste and technology items for example that contain precious metals.
Sometimes, the way that products are designed and put together makes them economically impossible to recycle in a way that is feasible.
Modular designs and detachable part based designs for laptops and mobile phones for example would make recycling easier and probably more efficient.
Identifying the stage of the recycling lifecycle where changes can be most effective might help too
7. Auditing & Tracking Of Recycling Programs
Auditing and tracking may help in making sure that recycling goals are being met.
Auditing and tracking might happen for waste collection/hauling, waste processing, and other stages of the recycling lifecycle.
8. More Education On Recycling & Waste Management
This may take place in schools, in the workplace, or in local council correspondence.
Something that might clearly and simply be communicated to people and businesses it exactly how to sort their recycling and general waste.
More public awareness about how to recycle properly (for different materials and different sorts of items and products), could increase recycling rates.
9. Other Potential Solutions For Improving Recycling
– Add Recycling Bins In Public Spaces
A simple and easy idea.
Adding recycling bins to public spaces such as malls, parks and workplace break areas could increase the rate of recycling where people would usually put recyclable materials in general waste bins.
10. Reduce Generation Of Waste In The First Place
Preventing recyclable material from entering the waste disposal system in the first place is one way to decrease the load/burden on the recycling system.
Some argue it might also be part of a more effective overall waste management strategy.