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Need to Know

SWANA to Focus on Plastic Reduction, Recycling

SWANA is committing to reducing the generation of single-use plastics and correctly recycling these materials.

This Earth Day, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is committing to a renewed focus on reducing the generation of single-use plastics and correctly recycling these materials, urging industry and public education efforts.

In support of Earth Day 2018’s dedication to ending plastic pollution, SWANA would like to emphasize to all members and the public that “reduce and reuse” come before “recycle” on the waste hierarchy for a reason; the world’s primary efforts should center on reducing the amount of waste generated, and finding ways to give products a longer lifecycle, in order to reduce environmental impact.

“We should think differently before we purchase products made with plastic, and in the spirit of reduction, ask ourselves if we really need them,” said Tracie Onstad Bills, Northern California director of sustainable materials management at SCS Engineers, in a statement. “Consider buying material that can be reused, or at a minimum, easily recycled—these are principles we can live by every day, not just on Earth Day.”

To successfully process the plastic waste generated, the public must be educated on what goes into the blue bin—plastic bags cause jams to processing equipment, batteries cause serious fires and food waste can contaminate an entire bale.

Contamination has been a major concern in the wake of China’s waste import restrictions; recycling exports have declined, and SWANA recognizes the serious need for increased governmental support for North American recycling programs and an industry that provides jobs, tax revenue and preserves landfill space for generations to come. SWANA recently sent a letter to key congressional leaders in the U.S. urging that recycling be included in any future infrastructure bill.

“Our communities need support in developing renewed and standardized messaging on recycling smarter in order to increase the quality and market opportunities for collected plastic resources,” said Jeffrey Murray, P.E., international president at SWANA and senior project manager at HDR, in a statement. “Our industry needs investment in infrastructure to expand our domestic processing capabilities and to incentivize the development of new end products from recycled plastics.”

SWANA’s new Recycling Task Force is working to address how North America can successfully and sustainably process the amount of plastic that is in the waste stream by initiating public education efforts, actively calling for increased funding for recycling infrastructure and exploring new opportunities to increase demand for recycled content.

“Through the collective efforts of SWANA’s Recycling Task Force, cooperation with federal and state officials and renewed public awareness brought on by Earth Day, I am hopeful that we can make headway in finding creative solutions to reducing and processing our plastic waste,” said David Biderman, SWANA’s executive director and CEO, in a statement.

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