Latest Recycling Trends in 2024 That You Must Be Aware of

keyKey Takeaways:
  • The world is waking up to the dangers of plastic waste, and there is a growing movement towards reducing the use of single-use plastics. This has led to a surge in demand for recyclable and biodegradable alternatives.
  • Due to the growing concerns about the environment and climate change, people are becoming more conscious of their waste management practices and are leaning toward more advanced recycling processes than ever before.
  • Initiatives like community recycling drives and waste segregation programs are making a big difference in reducing waste and promoting recycling.

Someone rightly said, “Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.”

Considering such facts, the globe has already started moving towards a sustainable tomorrow, which has led sustainability to achieve the spotlight.

Ever wondered what is the most essential factor leading us toward a sustainable tomorrow? – True, a robust recycling practice. 

As per the recent reports, the National Recycling Strategy is focusing on achieving the national recycling goal of the US which is to increase the recycling rate to 50% by 2030. However, if we throw some light on the current stats, we will realize that there is still a long way to go.

Of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2021, only 5% to 6% — or about two million tons — is being recycled.

No matter if you are already running a recycling business or starting a new one, you need to be up to date with the recent recycling trends and recycling marketing strategies. By doing so, you can not only streamline the recycling systems but also increase recycling rates.

On that note, we have compiled a list of recycling trends that will help us make the world a better place.

#1. Industrial Consolidation Effect

Economies of scale are probably the most significant reason justifying the creation of national and international corporations formed by the combination of many small waste management and recycling businesses. 

Plus, 

  • Fewer overheads
  • Minimum number of management layers
  • An increasing number of private equity buyers or investment funds driven by ESG (environmental, social, and governance) considerations 
  • Centralized billing and receivables operations 
  • Labor and supply chain challenges affected by the pandemic have created an urge to consolidate the companies.

Due to the above-mentioned reasons, companies are moving towards consolidation. But, the few questions below may stand still. 

  • Whether these ongoing mergers and acquisition processes positively are going to impact the waste and recycling industry?
  • Will there be any notable changes in how recyclable materials are managed? 
  • Or will it just direct the same amount of waste at different disposal sites?
  • Will it lead to cost-effective modernized waste collection technology or will it simply result in delivering similar services at a higher cost to customers?

These may raise concerns, which need to be addressed by constantly checking them in the near future. 

#2. Plastic Debates are Taking Central Stage

Plastics have now been the talk of the town lately as people are getting aware of the negative environmental impact of plastic. It becomes crucial to explore what’s happening around us and whether it is necessary to implement plastic reduction strategies or not. As people become more aware of the detrimental effects of plastics on the environment, it is possible that we shift our approach to recycling plastics with the emergence of new business ventures, dedicatedly addressing the mentioned concern.

There are countries that have already started implementing plastic reduction strategies and are promoting more environmental sustainability practices. Examples of a few cities are scripted herewith. Have a look:

  1. California:

    California legislators on June 30, 2022, made a bold decision that was focused to curb plastic pollution. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (Senate Bill 54) into law.

    The law requires companies to reduce their single-use product packaging and foodware by 25% over the next 10 years. Experts at Ocean Conservancy are estimating that the new law passed will eliminate plastic waste by 23 million tons by the next decade. 

  2. Texas:

    Houston of Texas is aiming to boost the recycling rates, improvising the conventional as well as innovative recycling capabilities. And carrying forward this aim they have decided to collaborate the city officials with the industry leaders. 

    The collaboration is named The Houston Recycling Collaboration which works to decrease the amount of plastic sent to landfills by expanding access to recycling infrastructure, improving collection and sorting capabilities, and partnering with other organizations to provide community-focused solutions.

    The Houston Recycling Collaboration was between the City of Houston, ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell, Cyclyx International, and FCC Environmental Services.

  3. Oregon:

    Oregon has already submitted a detailed report on its, “truth in labeling” as a part of the ongoing extended producer responsibility implementation strategy. The report recommends that the “Truth-in-Labelling” task force will evaluate the misleading or confusing recyclability claims on products or packaging. 

    “Public confusion about what and how to recycle has been one of several root drivers of instability in Oregon’s recycling system,” the report said.

    Along with this, the report also recommends two other things. First among them are PROs (product responsibility organizations) that run statewide advertising campaigns to teach Oregonians about label changes and secondly they should use eco-modulation in their membership fees to support recycling labeling best practices.

    “Preferred or standardized labeling practice equals a lower fee,” the report suggested. “Poor labeling practices equals a higher fee.”

Future assumptions based on the recent statewide decisions:

  • The decisions taken towards minimizing plastic pollution could affect future markets for plastic packaging materials, encouraging MRF operators and haulers to change the way they operate.
  • Policy experts can anticipate a few pieces of legislation this year that is aimed at curbing, eliminating, or regulating plastic practices. This can include new EPR for packaging bills.

Recommended: Following the latest recycling trends for your new business? Check out recycling business ideas as well. 

#3. Environmental Justice Plans in Action

“2021 National Recycling Strategy”, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on handling the major recycling challenges coming up. 

The very existing challenge that has been addressed by the state and federal entities is the environmentally overburdened communities. EPA recognized the fact that living near waste and waste-related facilities can negatively impact the health of communities leading to higher levels of chronic health issues. 

EPA national strategy will get indulge in:

  • Continuously increasing equitable access to recycling services
  • Reduced environmental impacts in communities
  • Stimulate economic development
  • Ensuring overburdened communities meaningfully participate during the strategy’s implementation.

Several cities and states are adopting these plans, which include policies and programs to reduce environmental pollution, improve access to green spaces, and promote sustainable development in underserved areas. 

The second environmental justice plan that will turn into action is EPA’s commitment to achieving the new national goal of reducing the climatic impact from the production, consumption, use, and disposal of materials. This can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50% by 2030.

#4. Fleet Evolution

Fleet evolution is a central focus nowadays because of the fact that the transition from conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric, fuel-efficient, or other low-carbon alternatives will help global companies in the waste industry reduce their carbon footprints. 

The waste management companies are working consistently towards the sustainable fleet goals that are suggesting compressed and renewable natural gas by the end of the decade. Amidst this, announcements about the use of other alternative fuel vehicles keep popping up. One of them is:

To achieve this, United Airlines is introducing more fuel-efficient aircraft into its fleet & investing in sustainable aviation fuel and other decarbonization technologies to reach its ambitious goal to be 100% green by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  

You might get an idea of how words on fuel efficiency are spreading across. To your surprise, there is still one such way to help you reduce your recycling business’s fuel costs. And that is to get aided by automated processes rather than relying on manual things. 

So, you should look for reliable waste management software solutions like Upper. It uses a fully automated process that can help you reduce your waste pickup time and boost efficiency as well. As a result, you don’t need to spend extra on vehicle fuel and maintenance, which will help you in reducing carbon footprint. Here’s what Upper has in store for you.

  • A fully automated route planning for your daily waste pickups
  • Option for route scheduling with customized notification
  • Optimizes multi-stop routes considering distance or travel time factor
  • Automatically assign multiple stops between the drivers as per their availability
  • Lets your team collect the proof of service via e-signature or photos
  • Track your waste collection team using Upper’s live tracker.

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#5. Adapting to Climate Risks

The threats arising out of climate change are severe and are showing up in the day-to-day waste collection method as well as in the anticipation made by the local municipalities regarding the associated future risks. 

Adapting to climate risks

For instance, just in the past month, following the third-costliest year on record for climate-related disasters Buffalo, New York, and the Midwest experienced intense cold and snow. On the other hand,  California went through harsh flooding and mudslides.

Adapting to these risks requires proactive planning which can include measures such as improving infrastructure, developing early warning systems, and implementing disaster response plans. Cities have already started directing their adapting capabilities toward climate risks. For instance:

  • New York is compelling the city’s Department of Sanitation to create an emergency and resilient plan. Even the state has prioritized waste collection in flood-prone areas ahead of heavy rainfall.
  • US OSHA is considering the concerns of waste and recycling workers suffering from heat stress and illness. They are continuously working towards the development of workplace heat standards that spare the teams from having to work in some of the hottest hours of the day.
  • Miami-Dade County is pursuing the nation’s first countywide heat standard for outdoor workers in the absence of federal and state action.

Bonus tip:

Have no clue about naming your new recycling business? Read recycling company names in detail. 

#6. China’s National Sword Policy

Operation national sword is a policy launched by the government of China in the year 2017. It typically monitors and most importantly reviews the recyclable waste imports from other countries across the globe.

Before the National Sword Policy was introduced, China used to import the vast majority of recyclables from Europe and North American countries. Though recyclables from other countries contributed to the growing industrial capacity of China, it also brought a lot of contaminated recyclables, which ended up causing environmental concerns in the form of air and water pollution in China.

Considering the rising environmental concerns in China in the year April 2017, the Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping in a speech during the 34th meeting of the Reform Enforcement Task Force emphasized that the country is now considering the environmental issues related to foreign “waste”. 

After the announcement in the 34th meeting, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 18 July 2017 that it intends to ban additional “solid waste” imports by year-end.

Followed by which China banned the import of some plastics and other materials that were previously participating in that nation’s recycling processors.

What steps did China take?

The Chinese government notified us that the percentage of contaminants allowed in recycled materials would drop from 5–10% to 0.5%. 

Also, due to the repercussions of the National Sword Policy, the cost of residential recycling services increased by over 11% from the year 2018 i.e. $6.85 per month per household.

#7. Circular Economy in Practice

Sustainability is a new normal nowadays and the globe, narrowing down its efforts towards the circular economy practices is strong evidence of it.

Circular economy in practice

The era of planned obsolescence is coming to an end and manufacturers will be focusing more on making a product that is more durable and long-lasting. This is because the current practice of disposing of waste by burning or burying it is becoming obsolete. Want to know how circular economy can be practiced? Here it is:

  • Garbage trucks will no longer have the sole purpose of dumping the waste into the landfills but they will also be used to return valuable resources found in the waste back to manufacturers. 
  • Similarly, manufacturers and designers have to reconsider their view towards raw materials. The time is not far from when recycled materials will be viewed the same as raw materials. 

As per the reports it is predicted that by the year 2050 two-thirds of the global population will live in towns and cities. As a result, the living standards of people will increase, leading to a high consumption rate followed by the creation of more waste. This will ultimately create more opportunities to “collect, process and recycle the waste” instead of “collect, process, dispose of the waste”

  • Considering the ESG reporting (Environmental, Social, and Governance), Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé have increased the use of recycled content and wider sustainability policy.
  • The European countries adopted the circular economy action plan (CEAP) in March 2020, whose main focus is to promote circular economy processes, encourage sustainable consumption, and aims to ensure that waste is prevented and the resources used are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible.
  • If we look at the Asian countries, Vietnam is shifting towards a circular economic approach. Their circular economic system is based on the “make-use-recycle” model, which promotes waste reduction and lowers resource extraction through recycling, reducing, and reuse.
  • Even China has planned to promote recycling, remanufacturing, green product design, and renewable resources as part of the circular economy element of its 14th New Five-Year Plan Period.  

#8. Modern Innovative Methods for Recycling E-waste

The recent innovative methods focusing on recycling e-waste are believing in making the most of recyclable reusable parts. 

Apple robots are a recent and highly discussed topic around the town. It is the recent tech industrial innovation that is focused on efficiently managing waste better than humans. The robots can extract valuable components and materials from electronic waste, whether it be a telephone, computer, or television, that can be reused instead of disposed of.

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#9. Advanced Recycling Programs

Because of the continuous rise in optimizing waste operations and diverting them toward the recycling processes, cities are becoming more environmentally friendly, and their recycling programs are getting better. 

Even while working with the client, companies all over the world experience that they are well aware of how recycling programs work, and how they can be improved, not just these, they are even participating in finding new ways to fund their recycling programs. 

Communities can get assisted with online fundraising platforms making it easier to support recycling efforts. This in turn will help create new job opportunities boosting the employment rates.

#10. Consistent Ban on Plastic and Polystyrene

Countries across the globe are banning the use of plastic and polystyrene. This new recycling trend is gaining recognition. See how:

  • Like Hawaii, California voted for a statewide ban on the use of plastic bags. 
  • Like many other styrofoam-free cities, San Francisco also joined this summer and passed a ban on polystyrene (styrofoam).

#11. Improvised Recycling Facilities 

There are circumstances where the recycled materials cannot be reused. The reason is the presence of contamination in the recycling waste and the current recycling facilities are not capable enough to undergo combat contamination. So, is there any other way?

Yes, there is, if the current recyclable material indicators were improved, it can assist recycling facilities in differentiating contamination. 

The advancements in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Technology) will now be able to determine what can and cannot be recycled. It will also ensure that contamination can be reduced by providing more accurate information on how and which product to recycle, reducing confusion and ultimately preventing non-recyclable or contaminated materials from entering the recycling waste streams.

So, instead of those meaningless symbols on packaging, the tiny affordable RFID circuits will be embedded into the product packaging. The embedded RFID chip will help filter out how to recycle a particular product, in a particular municipality. Amazing, right?

#12. Enhanced Recyclable Plastics

Recent reports driven by scientists have found that “the total mass of plastic is exceeding the total mass of living mammals.” This creates an immediate requirement for recycling plastics. However, if we look back, only certain plastic was easily recycled. 

However, due to the advancements of commercial recycling plants have the ability to break down and reuse PET and HDPE plastics. But other plastics such as styrofoam have been much harder to recycle. And therefore, it was banned by San Francisco.

The PureCycle technology innovated by John Layman, is one of the examples of the recent innovations in recycling plastics.

FAQs

Recycling is beneficial to the economy as well as the environment in several ways. Here are some of them:

    • Helps protect the environment
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions that help tackle climate change
    • Helps reduce air, water, and land pollution emitted from hazardous industrial waste chemicals, plastic bottles, and cans
    • Recycling paper can help reduce deforestation and conserve mother earth
    • Recycling process involves minimal waste disposal, burning little fossil fuels, and most chemicals are reused, and there is less emission of greenhouse gas, ultimately decreasing the global warming impact
    • Reduces the size of landfills

Chemical recycling is a process where plastic waste is broken down into its basic chemical building blocks, or monomers, that can be used to produce new plastic products.

There are various methods to get engaged in recycling, as stated below:

    • Taking recyclable materials to nearby recycling facilities,
    • Engaging in various recycling programs,
    • Patronizing companies that utilize recycled materials,
    • Decreasing your personal consumption and waste by reusing and upcycling products.
    • Also, you can lend a hand in neighborhood cleanups or with organizations that support recycling and environmental sustainability.

Conclusion

On a conclusive note, it is clear that recycling practices are gaining momentum focusing on more sustainable practices, along with the growing environmental challenges. Staying up to date and keeping a keen eye on all the recycling trends listed above will help you contribute towards a healthier planet.

Besides, you can adopt advanced software like Upper, which can play a vital role in your daily waste collection and recycling processes. Using Upper, you can save fuel costs following the most efficient routes and wrapping the waste-picking process early. Don’t just believe our words, try a 7 days free trial and explore its unique features by yourself. 

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.