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Need to Know

NLC Endorses Circular Economy to Improve Recycling Efforts

The guide gives cities tools to establish a circular economic framework for recycling and to work toward zero waste.

To improve municipal waste management practices, boost local green jobs and help address climate change, the National League of Cities (NLC), in partnership with Starbucks, released Recycling Reimagined, a new action guide designed for city leaders. Released on America Recycles Day, the action guide provides cities the tools they need to establish a circular economic framework for recycling and to work toward zero waste.

“For decades, cities have led the charge for reducing waste and reusing valuable materials,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of NLC, in a statement. “City leaders care deeply about health of their citizens and the safety of their environment. From coast to coast, cities large and small can use the tools and recommendations in this action guide to reduce waste and build a more sustainable future for their communities.”

Americans generate more waste than any other country in the world, and that amount is growing fast. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that as much as 75 percent of all waste is recyclable and compostable, even though more than half of that material ends up in landfills.

Currently, much of the global economy operates in a linear fashion: Resources make products, products are consumed and both the products and any byproducts of manufacturing are disposed of. In contrast, the circular economy model aims to keep resources within a closed loop of reuse, regeneration and recycling. It ultimately aims to achieve zero waste by prioritizing the highest and best use of materials and resources.

Recycling Reimagined offers case studies from cities like Phoenix; Boulder, Colo.; Austin; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Vancouver, Canada, that are already leading the way on zero waste. The action guide also includes recommendations and data for city leaders looking to build sustainable waste management systems in their communities.

Starbucks is committed to serving our communities sustainably,” said Rebecca Zimmer, global director of environment at Starbucks, in a statement. “We are proud to partner with National League of Cities as they work to help cities increase access to recycling, reduce waste and create equitable, prosperous communities in cities across the country.”

Recommendations for achieving zero waste include:

  1. Performing waste characterization studies
  2. Doing continuous outreach and marketing
  3. Prioritizing the best use of materials and resources
  4. Considering instituting standardized recycling and composting programs
  5. Using city procurement to boost sustainable products and end markets
  6. Building partnerships and regional support
  7. Finding innovative funding models
  8. Investing in infrastructure and improved technology
  9. Piloting programs
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