One of the biggest challenges facing cities around the world today is to initiate and maintain effective recycling systems. Many of those that are already in place are long-standing and fulfilling their function. However, they can continue to develop their full potential, such as mechanical recycling, to help reinvent sustainable cities and make them a reality.
For starters, it is critical to change the perspective of many households in the United States, where the goal of recycling can become reinforced and trash is not just thrown away without sustainable design.According to Sustainable Life Media, about 34 million rural households and 16 million apartments in the country lack such an approach because they lack access to recycling and collection.
Another aspect to consider is the great disparity in the amount of recyclable materials used and how much of them are actually recycled. To understand it in figures, in 2018 it was learned that out of 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) only 69.9 million were recycled. That is, only 24% of waste produced in the territory ended up in landfills.
This scenario is striking because cities do have the necessary tools, such as mechanical recycling. By this process, the plastic is broken down into its original components and these are reused to create new products. Recycled materials, especially PET No. 1 (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics from water bottles and other everyday products, are put to good use in this effective way. Waste of these materials is lost due to infrastructure challenges that affect collection systems.
Improving recycling methods: a solution to the lack of citizen collaboration
The recycling rates in Baltimore illustrate the reality of collection. Recycling rates have dropped considerably, reaching almost 18.2% in 2020, because even though citizens have access to recycling, more than half do not recycle. In addition, the pandemic has forced a reduction in government revenues for sustainable initiatives. However, the city is an example of how to address the challenges with public-private sector collaboration.
Today Baltimore has a key circularity partner, Dow of The Recycling Partnership to seek a solution to this problem. With the help of training and education campaigns for the Baltimore community, they are trying to reduce contaminated waste and increase the availability of materials for reuse. As of this year, recycling carts are circulating to Baltimore homes in the hope of increasing recycling in the city.
Creative initiatives allow citizens to get involved and participate in scalable environmental actions that improve health and clean up their communities. If investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, and public-private collaboration are put to good use, Baltimore will be an example of how sustainable cities in a circular economy are possible.
Funds enable public-private partnerships to achieve real change
Sustainable cities are a reality when there is collaboration between the public and private sectors, as in Baltimore. Indeed, programs such as the Dow Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund provide local governments with alternatives to introduce concepts and business pilots into public systems.
In addition, this particular fund supports mechanical recycling in three areas: access, organization and manufacturing. With the support of the fund’s founding investors, work continues to catalyze even more capital from corporate investors and financial institutions to drive solutions to plastics waste in the recycling process. To this end, the strategies that follow focus on improving recycling systems in collection, sorting specific plastics efficiently to increase the amount of better quality plastic.
Betting on an inclusive circular economy
The speed of climate change should be a major driver to start improving the current recycling resources that cities around the world have. Therefore, the recycling solution and the possibility of consolidating an inclusive circular economy such as Baltimore’s can be a model. This will improve waste collection, optimize recycling infrastructure and improve sustainable manufacturing. The use of current resources should be the objective to think about how to optimize them and involve citizens in it.
A similar vision we share at eSmart Recycling, where we work to recycle computers to optimize their function by donating them to children and families without access to these devices in our community and in emerging countries. Maximizing usage allows us to contribute to the recycling of technology that socially benefits people so that they can have a more competitive future.