Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation today announced that Austin, Texas, and Philadelphia will join its multi-stakeholder initiative, Beyond 34: Scaling Circularity for a Sustainable Economy. Exacerbated by the COVID-induced labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and shifting consumer patterns, America’s waste collection systems continue to face major challenges, with the U.S. recycling rate hovering in the mid-30% range in recent decades. To help address these issues, Beyond 34 provides a model for high-impact waste solutions that can be scaled for implementation in regions across the country.
“For five years, the Beyond 34 initiative has helped communities improve their local recycling, reuse, and recovery rates, and provided a collaborative platform for the business community to lead in developing solutions that advance the circular economy in the U.S.,” said Marc DeCourcey, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber Foundation. “We welcome Austin and Philadelphia as the newest cities to join our movement and look forward to seeing the progress they achieve.”
Initially running in Orlando, Fla., and Cincinnati, Ohio, Beyond 34 helps communities and businesses build sustainable local economies through the application of a three-phased model: engage stakeholders across the waste management value chain; conduct analysis to identify areas of greatest impact; and empower communities to implement solutions.
Austin and Philadelphia were chosen because of their commitment to making their cities more sustainable and the opportunity that exists for significant economic and environmental impact through circular solutions.
As one of the fastest growing cities in America, Austin is prioritizing sustainability as a path to prosperity. The city is working toward its goal of reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by 2040 and has a number of programs that help residents grow the local circular economy. For example, Austin engaged zero waste “block leaders” to educate neighbors on recycling and composting, the plastics recycling system, and more.
“We know our ambitious goals for a circular economy here in Austin can’t be reached alone. We need the support of our nonprofit partners, businesses who share our values, and other cities that can pass along their own wisdom – we’re all ears and we want to learn,” said Steve Adler, mayor of Austin. “That’s why we jumped at the chance to be a part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s exciting work in the Beyond 34 initiative.”
Philadelphia is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and is working toward a goal to become 90% zero waste and litter-free by 2035. Philadelphia is also a leading smart city, utilizing data through its SmartCityPHL program to help the city become more efficient and improve quality of life for its residents.
“We are working diligently to make ‘smart city’ an overarching planning paradigm in Philadelphia, much like the term ‘sustainability’ has become,” said Mark Wheeler, chief information officer at the City of Philadelphia. “We need innovative tech, quality data, and partnerships—especially partnerships like the ones through the Beyond 34 initiative—to achieve a local circular economy that will provide equitable job opportunities, create resilient communities, and support global climate goals.”
Through tools like Beyond 34’s Recycling and Recovery Resources Hub, cities across the country can learn from other regions that are addressing barriers and driving action toward waste elimination.
Since its launch, The Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola Consolidated, Kroger Co., Dow, PLASTICS Industry Association, Procter and Gamble, Republic Services, Target, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and the Walmart Foundation have supported the Beyond 34 program, with Walmart.org and Walgreens funding the expansion to Austin and Philadelphia.
“The Beyond 34 model provides important insights and resources to cities and regions around the country. The Walmart Foundation is proud to support the expansion of Beyond 34 to Austin and Philadelphia. Strong policy and public sector activities to reduce waste are critical supplements to private sector investments. Shifting to behaving and operating in a circular economy will require everyone to work strategically together – exactly the kind of systemic change we are working to enable at the Walmart Foundation,” said Chelsea Scantlan, sustainability program officer at Walmart.org.
“We recognize that creating some waste is unavoidable. Beyond 34 is a perfect way to bring like-minded problem solvers together to deal with things like waste, recycling, and problematic plastics. By collaborating with members of the communities we serve and other businesses in those communities, we are certain that we can make an impact. By lending our support, we are not only doing our part, but hopefully inspiring others to do their part as well,” said John Kotlarczyk, senior director, waste reduction, Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Those interested in bringing Beyond 34 to a new city or region should contact Peter Fadoul for instructions on how to apply. For more information on Beyond 34 and how it’s working to solve U.S. waste management issues, visit our website here.
About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.