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Recycling in America: In the bin

TO PLACATE shareholders and shoppers, American companies are promising to use more recycled materials in their products. It’s a nice idea, but surprisingly hard to achieve. Coca-Cola committed to using at least 25% recycled plastic in its containers by 2015, but revised this downwards owing to scarce supply and high costs. Walmart is struggling to find the material to meet its goal to use 3 billion pounds of recycled plastic in its packaging and products by 2020. “The problem is supply,” explains Rob Kaplan of Walmart.Most recycled materials should be cheaper than virgin commodities, but America throws too much stuff away. Low landfill fees and a fragmented waste-management system have kept the country’s recycling rate at around 34% for two decades—far lower than most rich countries. This waste comes at a cost. Making cans from recycled aluminium, the most valuable container material, requires 95% less energy and creates 90% less greenhouse-gas emissions than virgin stock, yet more than 40 billion aluminium cans hit America's landfills every year. The country chucks away $ 11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging annually, according to As You Sow, an advocacy group.Part of the problem is that America’s approach to waste is a mess of incompatible local systems. Around 9,800 different municipal recycling plans operate around the country, and they all …
Waste and Recycling