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How Cities Can Become Hubs for a Circular Economy

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How many packages have you relied on today? Responsible and innovative packaging is critical to delivering shippable, shelve-able, sellable, product value. Consumers, retailers, and brands count on packaging. And then what?

The best way to retain investment value and mitigate risks is to recycle these materials.

“Municipal recycling programs are the hubs of the reverse logistics needed to return valuable packaging to the supply chain,” says Jeff Meyers, The Recycling Partnership’s Director of Corporate Partnerships.

“Imagine the packages you rely on every day. Your shampoo? The egg carton that kept your breakfast intact? The container that makes a beverage on the go possible? Packaging is not going away,” Meyers asserts. Neither is the demand for more sustainable choices.

In a recent statewide consumer survey in Massachusetts, responses highlighted that recycling is an important personal value. Residents across the country overwhelmingly (90 percent) report that they feel compelled to recycle; meanwhile the 2016 Sustainability Leaders Survey shows there is an increasing expectation for companies to lead the sustainability agenda.

The need to strengthen local recycling programs is evident. With the proper support, cities can deliver healthy tons of recyclables back to producers and maintain their link in the chain, and consumers can conveniently and efficiently complete their journey with product packaging. Without support, rising population, faltering infrastructure and strapped budgets will leave cities prey to larger gaps in funding. Even many cities with sustainability strategies lack the resources necessary to implement efficient recycling programs. Siting landfills and trimming disposal are equally complicated and costly. While grants and funding are critical, providing knowledge and communication tools allows a recycling program to evolve confidently and gain maximum support.

On the granular level, robust recycling is about residents' curbside experience and a city delivering a valuable service. On a larger scale, recycling is about mindful manufacturing resources and aggressive environmental goals. A system’s view of recycling reveals many touchpoints and areas to amplify positive impact, while avoiding costs. With a drive to collaborate to combat the resource gaps and lack of data, The Recycling Partnership has become known as “the recycling realists.” Together with their Technical Council, State Leaders Group and MRF Working Group, along with industry leaders, committed brands, and ambitious city partners, the Partnership works relentlessly to co-create system-wide solutions that have immediate and long-lasting results.

As the concept of a circular economy plays out for consumers, the call for design and purpose around responsible packaging, recycling and processing will drive practical and actionable improvements.

“The move toward a circular economy is encouraging for us,” Meyers says. “More value for consumers, open fields for manufacturers, growth opportunities for retailers, tons of diverted materials - those are all positive in our eyes, and in the eyes of our funders, and city partners.

“Positive action fuels shared success, which then begets more success,” he added. “By leveraging investment, leveraging knowledge, and leveraging success, we see a circular win that saves tons of valuable material from landfills, and returns it to its next opportunity.”

Is your packaging - and your city - ready to leverage the opportunities of the emerging circular economy?

Businesses measure scale, efficiency, and growth. So does The Recycling Partnership. As a public-private entity, leveraging funding for local and state programs, the group is on track to deliver over $20 million in recycling infrastructure in its first two years. 

Elizabeth Schussler joined The Recycling Partnership in 2014 and currently oversees The Partnership’s communication activities. Much of Elizabeth’s work involves connecting leading businesses, such as Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, and other brands and industry associations to the local… [Read more about Elizabeth Schussler]

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