It’s 2020. Estimates say that the material recovery industry loses $300M annually because consumers simply don’t know what materials to be tossing in residential recycling bins. How did we get to this point? With at-will availability of all kinds of information via our mobile devices, it’s baffling that consumers still don’t have the information they need to recycle right.
We’re going to change that. (You knew that was coming, right?)
First, let’s address the fact that many variables impact a consumer’s ability to recycle right. Markets for recovered materials have changed. Packaging has become complex – it’s not just glass, paper, cardboard, and aluminum/tin cans, anymore. Processing equipment has become antiquated and unable to meet the demands of new packaging materials. All of these variables create constant changes to local recycling program guidelines.
Yet, when you talk to the average consumer, the vast majority of people say they do recycle and want to recycle. Our waste audits in the City of Wausau and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus provide all the evidence we need that consumers want to recycle.
The industry is working hard to make recycling work. Taskforces are researching new market opportunities for use of recovered materials. Processing infrastructure upgrades are slowly taking place across the country. But communicating with the public about how to recycle right?
So far, the solution has involved simplifying and generalizing messages: No plastic bags or plastic wrap. Plastic #1 and #2 containers-only. Cardboard boxes – yes.
The problem is that the load of groceries you just brought home doesn’t look anything like the general messaging you’re seeing in local guidelines (if you’re seeing those guidelines at all).
We’re coming at this problem from another angle: Be as specific as possible.
What if your grocery receipt told you exactly how to properly recycle all of the products you just purchased? What if you could give your kids your phone to scan the UPC barcodes of products in your pantry to learn how to recycle products you buy? What if your grocery delivery app told you exactly how to recycle all of the packaging for the products you just purchased?
It’s 2020. We have the technology. Would you use it?