NRC Supports Federal Expansion of America’s Recycling Infrastructure

by Bob Gedert, President, National Recycling Coalition and the NRC Board of Directors – on behalf of the NRC members

In the President’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual budget allocation is proposed to be cut by one third. This cut would result in the elimination of over 50 programs and 3,200 jobs. Two of the programs proposed to be eliminated include the Sustainable Materials Management program and the Waste Reduction Model. Eliminating these programs will likely reduce critical support of the American recycling industry and negatively impact the American economy.

According to a recent statement from Ron Gonen of Closed Loop Partners, “These EPA programs analyze the way we consume, use and reuse materials and solid waste, providing tools and guidelines for industry, private companies and elected officials. The materials management and waste reduction programs guide investments into recycling facilities that sort and process material, and manufacturing infrastructure that utilizes these materials to make new products here at home – creating jobs in the process.”

It is disappointing to see proposed federal disinvestment in the recycling industry considering the jobs and opportunities recycling bring to our country, and the fact that the recycling industry is as large as the automobile industry. Infrastructure expansion into the recycling industry will bring new living wage jobs along with opportunities for the advent of new technologies in renewable energy and help businesses save money by being more efficient and reducing wasting.

One potential silver lining of the President’s budget proposal is new funding to support infrastructure redevelopment. Recently, the President toured the country announcing new transportation infrastructure funding for the airline industry, for the inland waterway transportation network, for dams and levee reconstruction, and for the federal highway system. The announcements throughout the “Infrastructure Week” outlined a series of proactive funding approaches aimed at revitalizing America’s decaying infrastructure.

The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) strongly supports efforts to invest and improve our country’s aging infrastructure. The recycling industry particularly needs a 21st-century transportation system to efficiently transport raw materials and feedstocks to manufacturers throughout the nation and the globe, including increased capacity and investment in all modes of transportation, covering rail, surface, and waterways. All infrastructure projects could generate far more jobs from the reuse and recycling of buildings and roads and the use of recycled and recyclable materials wherever economically and technologically possible (e.g., use of rubberized asphalt in road construction and use of rebar from ferrous scrap).

NRC also believes that investing in American recycling infrastructure would provide an excellent return on investment and leveraging of federal funds. Support of American recycling infrastructure would enable America to bring home recycling jobs from overseas, and dramatically expand the three-quarters of a million jobs and tens of billions of dollars already occurring in economic activity. Instead of shipping nearly half of all recovered recyclables to overseas markets, a refreshed recycling infrastructure will support new American end markets, manufacturers, and businesses creating closed loop material streams and lower transportation costs.

Today’s rapidly evolving waste stream requires an upgraded recycling infrastructure from collection to processing to manufacturing. Recycling industry experts note that the “evolving ton” reflects the light-weighting of plastic containers (PET), a significant reduction in newsprint (ONP) in the consumer stream, and a significant uptick in old corrugated containers (OCC) known as the “Amazon Effect” due to internet sales to home delivery. Single-stream material recovery facilities (MRFs) that service residential communities were not designed for these consumer shifts and are in need of redesign and expanded capacity. End-users and remanufactures also need to reflect these consumer shifts. The “evolving ton” creates pressure points throughout the value chain from consumer product redesign and sales all the way through the recycling system, requiring a full upscaling of the American recycling infrastructure.

The National Recycling Coalition urges citizens to contact your local Congressional Representative as the Federal Budget is debated and revised this summer, asking for support of the USEPA budget, as well as new infrastructure support for the American recycling system.

Investing in America’s recycling infrastructure is an investment in American jobs, in the American economy, and in reducing costs for businesses that will provide an excellent return for the investment of federal funds.

The National Recycling Coalition is a non-profit organization that is focused on the promotion and enhancement of recycling in the United States. We are 23-affiliated recycling organizations strong, and have a network of more than 6,000 members that extends across waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. The organization works to maintain a prosperous and productive recycling system that is committed to the conservation of natural resources, as well as accelerate sustainable approaches to the management of discarded materials.

View a PDF Version of this Opinion Article

View this Opinion Article in Resource Recycling

2017 NRC Awards

NRC Awards – Nominations Due June 30, 2017 at 5pm EST!

The National Recycling Coalition announces the “Call for Nominations” for the 2017 Awards – with awards presented at the Resource Recycling Conference August 28-30, 2017 in Minneapolis. Spread the word!! Nominate the best programs or individual you know in the following categories:

  1. NRCs’s Lifetime Achievement Award – recognizing an outstanding individual with a lifetime of leadership and dedication to the field of recycling.
  2. Bill Heenan Emerging Leader Award – recognizing an outstanding individual aged 35 or under who has emerged as a leader in the field.
  3. Outstanding Recycling Organization – awarded to a State Recycling Organization with outstanding growth, programs, leadership, or which has made a substantial impact on the field.
  4. Outstanding Business Leadership – awarded to a for-profit company showing leadership, innovation, and success as a corporate model in recycling and diversion.
  5. Outstanding Non-Profit Business Leadership – awarded to a not-for-profit company showing leadership, innovation, and success as a corporate model in recycling and diversion.
  6. Outstanding Community or Government Program – awarded to a public (community / governmental) program showing innovation, progress, or success as a model for other public programs.
  7. Outstanding Higher Education Program – awarded to a college / university with an exceptional program in recycling or in connecting higher education and the industry in the areas of degrees, tech transfer, career services, etc.

Nominate Here

The criteria for each award follow. Nominate a worthy candidate (you may self-nominate) by clicking on the following link. For questions, please contact Lisa Skumatz at, or at 303/494-1178. Deadline listed above, so get your nominations in!

FIRST prepare two word documents – a summary of 150 words and then a document of up to 1000 words that addresses the criteria noted for your award (label each criteria section). The specific criteria are listed in the table below. THEN Click here for the link to the award form.

You will need: contact information for yourself and the nominee, 150 word summary, and up to 1000 words addressing the criteria relevant for your award (see check marks below). The criteria for the higher education award asks for information about degree programs and career services, applied research / tech transfer, and links with recycling industries. The criteria for other awards are listed in the following table. We recommend you prepare a document with these elements first, and then cut and paste your responses into the form.

Effect on recy-cling / hierarchy & Tons Coverage / longevity Innovation / leadership / cutting edge Program Economics Special criteria for Higher Education (noted above)
Lifetime Achievement (extra points if available)
Bill Heenan Emerging Leader (extra points if available)
Outstanding Recycling Organization
Outstanding For-Profit Business Leadership
Outstanding Non-Profit Business Leadership
Outstanding Community or Government Program
Outstanding Higher Education Program

Nominate Here

Upcoming Free Webinars!

Help Develop a Zero Wasting Plan for California!
June 15, 2017 from 10:00am – 11:30am PT
via GoToWebinar

California is leading the world in fighting climate change and modeling a sustainable future. Help keep that leadership going by taking part in the development of a Zero Wasting Plan for California!

Copyright, Eco-Cycle

Join us in building upon the results of the December Workshops and April Webinar:

  • Divertability Analysis (types, amounts and sources of materials)
  • Commodity Analysis (value of discarded materials)
  • Service Opportunity Analysis (what’s missing?)
  • Supply ($ paid to process materials) and Demand ($ paid for finished materials) Market Analysis
  • Zero Waste Planning Checklist (Policies, Programs & Facilities to achieve Zero Waste).
  • AB2020 immediate fix needed
  • Packaging waste reduction
  • Compliance with SB 1383 (75% reduction of organics to landfill by 2025)
  • Tools to Implement above topics (e.g. state and local legislation, model ordinances/agreements, grassroots organizing, consumer campaigns, certification and training)

Hear what CRRA Technical Councils are recommending to include in the Zero Wasting Plan. Offer your own suggestions to make sure the Plan addresses your vision of what CA should be striving for to achieve Zero Wasting.

Register Now!

Webinar Hosted by: National Recycling Coalition
Promotional Partners: Zero Waste USA, Zero Waste San Diego, Zero Waste Sonoma County, CRRA and Northern California Recycling Association

Brought to you by the Global Recycling Council of the California Resource Recovery Association and Zero Waste Brain Trust










Register Now!

International Compost Awareness Week 2017

This year’s theme: Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food
From May 7 – May 13, 2017

Effective materials management is key to the resilience and beauty of any community, but many municipalities have yet to tap the numerous social, environmental, and economic benefits of recycling organic materials.

By collecting food scraps and landscape trimmings, these materials can be transformed into a valuable resource through the process of composting. The final product is compost, a nutrient-rich soil amendment which can be cycled back into the community to improve residential gardens, municipal landscaping, and agricultural lands. It can also be used for other DPW purposes such as erosion control.

From May 7th through the 13th, join communities across the U.S. and around the world by helping to promote the use and benefits of compost. How? Below are some event ideas to try in your community:

  • Facilitate a “How-To Compost at Home” workshop
  • Host a compost sale or giveaway
  • Organize tours of residential or commercial compost systems
  • Spread the word through local news media
  • Engage K-12 students with a district-wide art contest
  • Use compost for planting trees or local community garden

For more information about International Compost Awareness Week, and for additional tips on how to celebrate, please visit

Join the Compost Challenge! Learn More Here

National Recycling Coalition Scholarships for Minneapolis Area College Students

National Recycling Coalition Scholarships for Minneapolis Area College Students

Apply by June 1, 2017

A limited number of scholarships are being awarded to college and university students in the Twin Cities area through the National Recycling Coalition (NRC).

The Murray J. Fox Scholarship Fund was created in 1994, when Murray Fox, a long-time supporter and member of the NRC, started a fund to provide scholarships to college students interested in recycling. Since then, the trust fund has endowed over $112,000 in scholarships to 66 college students.

This year, in addition to scholarships, recipients will receive complementary admission to the Resource Recycling Conference in Minneapolis, 8/28-30/2017 as well as a one-year membership to the Coalition.

To learn more about Murray and his amazing contribution to recycling and young people, read his bio here.

For more information, contact:


Free Webinar: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Mandatory Recycling Ordinance

Re-TRAC will be hosting this FREE webinar on May 3, 2017 at 10am PST/1pm EST.

Is your community looking for a new way to increase recycling and reduce disposal? How about regulating costs and extending the life of landfills? Register to attend this webinar to learn how to plan, write, and implement a mandatory recycling ordinance in your community.

After attending this webinar, you will:

  • be ready to start planning your own mandatory recycling ordinance
  • hear stories that will help you to avoid common pitfalls
  • be equipped with best practices to ensure your ordinance is practical and fair
  • receive a free Roadmap to Mandatory Recycling Planner to stay organized

Click Here for More Information

Click Here to Register

Behind the scenes: A Reuse Advocate’s role in Zero Waste policy

By MaryEllen Etienne

Reuse is well known as the “second R” in the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra used by environmental leaders across the globe. Perhaps the term conjures up that reusable bag sitting in your car trunk – but reuse is much more than this. It is a complex and critical component of true Zero Waste.

Espousing the benefits of reuse
It is clear that source reduction and recycling will only get us so far. We can’t achieve Zero Waste without reuse.

We don’t have to look much further than Toyota to see the vital ‘part’ reuse plays in corporate Zero Waste efforts. In the late 1990’s Toyota began replacing cardboard gaylords and wooden pallets with durable, reusable shipping containers to ship parts to dealerships. In the early 2000’s they began using these containers to ship parts from Japan to North America, then to distribution centers. Currently more than 65,000 reusable shipping containers carry 109 million parts annually through a network of 1850 dealers, 150 suppliers and 22 distribution centers. Toyota’s reuse efforts have saved 308 million pounds of wood, 185 millions pounds of cardboard and 445 million dollars in packaging costs since 2002.

In the nonprofit world, we can look to the Scrap Exchange to see how reuse is promoting creativity, environmental awareness and community development. Scrap Exchange is a national model creative reuse center in Durham, North Carolina. By collecting materials from local businesses and residents and selling reclaimed materials – the organization has created 32 jobs and diverts nearly 150 tons annually. With the recent purchase of over 105,000 square feet of commercial space they are poised to create the country’s first “Reuse Arts District” and national center to support reuse initiatives.

All this great work aside, it is important to note that reuse continues to be overshadowed by the “third R”, recycling. This is where reuse advocates come into play.

Making a timely connection
In April 2016, as a new member of American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) I started to get acquainted with the organization and its work. I had the great fortune to speak with Richard Eidlin, ASBC’s Vice President of Policy about my passion for reuse, its vital role in the broader concept of Zero Waste, and how it all factors into a circular economy. Just a few weeks later, he was approached by Maria Laverdiere, legislative aide to Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) to get feedback on their Zero Waste Bill. Richard immediately put me in touch with her.

Getting it right
My work with Maria and Richard began in earnest as I put a critical eye to Ellison’s existing Zero Waste Bill. On first read I noticed it prominently displayed the National Recycling Coalition’s (NRC) newly adopted definition of “recycling” – which, as a NRC Board Member, was wonderful to see and had resulted from Maria’s work with NRC’s Policy Committee in 2015. Upon further review, I noticed that the Bill’s language seemed to overlook reuse. Throughout the document it either skipped directly from waste reduction straight to recycling (missing the “second R”) or referred to a small segment of reuse by occasionally mentioning “product reuse”.

Overlooking reuse is not uncommon, however. I see it everywhere – from municipal waste management plans to corporate Zero Waste programs. It’s easy to confuse reuse with recycling and/or to underestimate its triple bottom line impacts, but I’m hoping that my fellow reuse advocates will educate policy makers and industry leaders, and hold them accountable for including, and even more importantly prioritizing, reuse in their Zero Waste goals and policies.

The other key elements I felt were missing in the legislation were definitions of waste prevention, reuse and Zero Waste. After walking Maria through my suggested edits and describing in more detail the role of reuse in Zero Waste and the circular economy, I began to mark-up the document.

I made the seemingly small but important revisions ensuring reuse was not skipped – and would take its proper place between waste reduction and recycling. Then, to complement the NRC’s definition of recycling, I added my oft-used definition of “reuse” – extending the life of a product, packaging, or resource by either using it more than once for the same or a new function with little to no processing, or repairing it so it can be used longer’. I then crafted a definition of “waste prevention” based on EPA’s use of term. Lastly, I added the peer-reviewed definition of “Zero Waste” which was developed by the Zero Waste International Alliance. Thankfully, these changes were embraced by Ellison’s staff.

In the meantime, I worked with ASBC to organize a Capitol Hill briefing on Zero Waste that was held on November 16, 2016. Congressman Ellison presented the updated document to policy-makers and leaders in the corporate and nonprofit community. The updates were well received and Maria set forth to incorporate the edits and feedback into a finalized document.

Answering the call to action
On January 26, 2017, Maria distributed an email stating Congressman Ellison’s intention to reintroduce the updated Bill known as “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017” in the 115th Congress (H.R. 1034) on February 14, 2017. She also encouraged me, ASBC and others involved in the original Bill to show our support once again.

Now it is time to advocate for reuse and Zero Waste. I wholeheartedly agree with Maria’s sentiment and hope to elicit support for this potentially game-changing piece of legislation among my peers.

Let’s prove that eliminating wasteful practices and supporting more reuse and recycling will contribute to increasing jobs and helping those who need affordable food, furniture, clothing and other goods and conserving our resources. Let’s actively support building a viable reuse infrastructure and bring home the manufacturing jobs in recycling in an effort to rebuild infrastructure in America. Let’s also underscore that the reuse and recycling industry is as large as the automobile industry, and a little investment and supportive tax policies would pay off significantly to making America great again.

MaryEllen Etienne has been working in the field of sustainable materials management for over 20 years, with an expertise in reuse. She is the creator and executive producer of ReuseConex and is the author of “The Reuse Primer” and “The Reuse Movement Toolkit”. She can be contacted at

View the PDF version

The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) supports and endorses the “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017”

February 14, 2017

View the Letter of Support Here

Free Webinar: Next Steps on the Road to Zero Wasting in California

Bob Gedert Voted to AOR Board

View the original press release from Resource Recycling Systems

January 31, 2017, Ann Arbor, Mich.  – Sustainability and recycling consultancy RRS, announced today affiliate senior consultant Bob Gedert has been voted to the Association of Ohio Recyclers (AOR) member-at-large board of directors position.

Mr. Gedert recently moved back to Ohio and joined RRS to work with municipalities and organizations in the public sector to advance recycling and composting efforts and move toward zero waste goals.

Previous to RRS, Mr. Gedert served as the Austin Resource Recovery department director leading services including recycling, solid waste collection, household hazardous waste, and yard waste. His previous experience in Ohio included solid waste district director for Auglaize County, recycling director for Highland County, and operations manager for the Cincinnati Experience. He also has public sector recovery experience with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Fresno, Calif.

As an AOR Board member, Mr. Gedert is responsible for actively supporting the AOR Mission to promote and advance waste reduction, reuse and recycling through statewide leadership, communication, research, education and networking opportunities.

“I am excited to returning to Ohio and working with recyclers throughout the state” stated Mr. Gedert. “It is through organizations like the Association of Ohio Recyclers that recycling and composting collection knowledge can be shared and a positive impact made on our local environment.”

AOR is a non-profit organization with a focus on advancing waste reduction, reuse and recycling. More information can be found at