It’s November, which means it’s time for America Recycles Day. This annual celebration of recycling, organized by Keep America Beautiful, occurs every Nov. 15. People are encouraged to take the #BeRecycled Pledge and to host or attend events designed to raise the profile of recycling in the U.S. Events range from plastic bag recycling and community cleanup days to end-of-life electronics collections to secure document shredding and recycling opportunities.

Given the negative press recycling has been receiving in the U.S. over the last year following China’s actions to ban or restrict imports of recyclables into that country, America Recycles Day might be an opportunity to change the dialogue surrounding recycling. And that’s important because the supply chain starts with consumers, and their buy-in is a critical component to recycling’s ongoing success.

Despite the negative press of late, recycling may not be as ill-perceived by the general public as one might think. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) released the results of a poll of more than 2,000 Americans that was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of association. Those results reveal that nearly 8 in 10 Americans have curbside programs where they live (79 percent), and, of those with programs, 88 percent find the recycling services to be valuable. Nearly half of respondents say they feel these programs are effective and efficient, while 43 percent to 45 percent believe they can be improved. Only 12 percent believe recycling is not a valuable service.

“With the actions taken by China prohibiting the importation of recyclable material, there has been a fear that this would negatively impact the public perception of curbside recycling,” says ISRI President Robin Wiener. “On the contrary, Americans have a very positive view of recycling programs in their communities. Where they do seek improvements, there is an opportunity to increase recycling rates, increase quality and create more of a supply of recyclable materials for use in manufacturing products.”

Despite the negative press of late, recycling may not be as ill-perceived by the general public as one might think.”

Those surveyed who believe curbside recycling could be improved or was not valuable were asked how these programs could be improved. More than half say more public education would help, while 35 percent think separate bins should be used for different recyclables. Only 28 percent of respondents favored public investment in recycling infrastructure to better sort and process materials.

However, associations, including ISRI, are lobbying for such investment. Their efforts started in April when the Plastics Industry Association and 11 partner associations delivered a letter to Capitol Hill calling on the House majority and minority leaders to develop and advance an infrastructure investment package to address the United States’ need for better recycling efforts and innovation.

For an update on their progress, be sure to read the article “A new blueprint for waste management” in the fall edition of Plastics Recycling that accompanies this issue of Recycling Today.