Experts say a lot of the wrong materials are ending up in the recycling bin – thus driving up the cost to process the materials and often making the contents useless. The problem is part of what Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, called “wishcycling,” in an interview with CNBC’s “On the Money” recently. Her national nonprofit organization connects funding from over 40 corporate partners to help “transform recycling for good in cities and towns across America.”
“People want to do the right thing,” Harrison said. “They want the environmental impact of strong recycling. But in order to get the rewards that we’re all going for we have to put the right things in the bin.”
Greasy pizza boxes and plastic bags are among the most common items that can get stuck in sorting machines, he explained. They can contaminate an entire recycling load, making it impossible to process and resell.
The Recycling Partnership has more than 40 funding partners, including some of the largest global companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Target, Proctor & Gamble, ExxonMobil, Amazon, International Paper and Starbucks.
“Part of the reason why our organization was founded was to accept donations from companies to put to work in local government to build long standing solutions, because we know it’s a big challenge for them to handle on their own,” the CEO told CNBC.
In 2016, China was the destination for two-thirds of the world’s plastic waste. But last year the country stopped buying recycled materials, because so much that arrived was contaminated. “It’s important to know why China stopped buying our stuff. Truth is we were sending them junky loads, we got very comfortable with sending them loads that were not pure recyclables,” Harrison said.
“And now that we’re shifting our markets to the domestic market, we are cleaning them up and that takes money,” she said.
Harrison added: “Municipalities have never made serious money off of recyclables. They might have gotten some money back to offset the cost of collection, but this has been a cost for communities for years and they do it as a public service just like they supply clean water, good roads. This is part of what makes a healthy town.”