The first America Recycles Day was held in 1997 as a state recycling awareness initiative in Texas, and it has since grown into a national effort that last year saw involvement by more than 2 million people in about 2,000 events ranging from traditional recycling collections to fashion shows of clothes made from recycled materials. Three years ago, Keep America Beautiful took it over, and the organization offers support and promotional materials for local events. KAB vice president for recycling initiatives Brenda Pulley tells us more.
What kind of events have people been organizing for America Recycles Day?
People are really creative. They're doing everything from education events at schools with skits, they're doing all kinds of collection events, whether its electronics or Yellow Books or other things. There's really a wide array of events like recycled art fashion shows, lots of things that help get people involved. There's one group in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they do it every year. Last year, one of my favorites, although I'm not sure it will be as popular now, was a group in Anchorage that did a flash mob at a mall.
What are the trends in recycling?
If you look at the national recycling rates, it's up to 33% or 34%. Having said that, there's still a lot of opportunity. I think we know there are certain impediments to recycling, first and foremost is the ease. You want to make it as convenient as possible. How close is the bin located to where the material is generated? In public spaces, we know there are trash bins out there, but for recycling bins, it's low double digits. If you're on the go, it's still very challenging. If you're in a s-f home and there's a bin outside the door, it's much easier. When it comes to composting, clearly that's an area we're all looking at. When we look at some of the challenging areas that we need to put more resources toward, rural recycling, multi-family recycling and composting offer some real opportunities to help advance recycling. Each of those come with all kinds of issues that need to be addressed, and it goes back to that convenience we talked about. Then there's the whole awareness issue. There's a stat out there -- 20% of people are committed to recycling, 60% are sometimes or potential recyclers and 20% probably never will. We need to be reaching that 60%, addressing the infrastructure issues and doing the right kind of awareness raising.
What about the stories we hear about having too much recycled material and not enough uses for it?
If we were having this conversation five years ago, I would agree with you. I think if you think of the materials, there are some that are harder to recycle, but if you think of paper and plastic bottles, there are so many companies that have figured out how to use those materials in their manufacturing. They want more. Aluminum companies want more. It's a global competitive market now. Not that there still aren't processing issues, but companies are working on it. The next wave of things will be new uses for other materials such as juice packs. Starbucks is still trying to figure out how to get that plastic cup recycled. But, everybody wants more materials, and many of them are viewed as a resource and seen as more valuable now.