The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) is leading the way to promote recycling market development activities across the nation. With recycling markets in crisis since late 2017 because of Chinese restrictions on the import of curbside generated recyclables, the need to refocus on recycling markets abounded. A fundamental issue driving this crisis is the lack of domestic end markets to handle the sudden oversupply of recycled materials that are now looking for new homes.

The NRC stepped up to provide a platform for collaboration aimed at strengthening and growing domestic recycling markets. The leading edge of this effort included a regional recycling market development workshop series inaugurated in 2018, just months after the market collapsed. In 2018, four workshops were organized in partnership with key state recycling organizations (SROs) and featured local end markets and recycling experts. These events were attended by more than 250 people. In 2019, the NRC has four workshops planned in states needing to revitalize recycling markets.

RRS, a mission driven consulting firm focused on material recovery and sustainability, was engaged by NRC to help drive this effort. RRS is applying its decades of experience developing and working with recycling programs across the country, helping communities to divert and market recycled materials, and facilitating multi-stakeholder collaborations to drive solutions and is working with NRC to create a road map for the future.

While still early in the process of reshaping recycling markets, these workshops have led to a broader, more integrated understanding of the diversity of problems and potential solutions facing different parts of the country from many stakeholder perspectives along the value chain. They have established the interconnections among collectors, processors and end-users of recycled materials that are needed to bring forth a reimagined system that will better serve economic and environmental outcomes well into the 21st century.

Over the next 18-24 months, the U.S. will see a reinvigorated recycling system with jobs and capital investment at the heart of building the new recycling economy. Momentum continues to grow, and the coalition of leaders participating in these workshops are driving positive system change using the lessons learned, and connections made, through the efforts of NRC and its partners.

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