About the Calendar
The National Recycling Calendar is an optimized industry-wide shared outreach campaign, designed to help curb the national average contamination rate and increase the national recycling rate.
The Calendar and assets were developed based on input from recycling and circular economy experts from across the supply chain and information from numerous studies, projects, and organizations.
Assets are free to use, adapt, or recreate in good faith as needed for your program.
Increasing the effective national recycling rate to 50% will require:
increasing the rate of recycling participation in areas that currently have access to recycling
reducing contamination and raising the quality of feedstocks to meet current market demand
aligning feedstock processing with market demand
These improvements will sustainably support:
development of more domestic recycling infrastructure and manufacturing
rising demand for high quality recycled feedstock
lowering the cost of expanding and adopting new recycling programs
increasing access to recycling
The Recycling Partnership estimates that contamination costs the U.S. recycling system at least $300 million every year. Consumer confusion over what is recyclable when and why, the #1 cause of contamination, has also led to declining participation in recycling and the current popular perception that recycling is ‘broken’, ‘dead’, or an outright ‘lie’.
Consumer confusion is magnified by the great variety in recycling program structures, messaging, and cultural attitudes toward recycling from city to city. Despite the disparity in recycling programs overall, there is major overlap in four areas shared by most programs nationwide:
From America Recycles Day to America Recycles Every Day
America Recycles Day began as Texas Recycles Day in 1994, as the brainchild of two employees of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis. Nov 15th was chosen as a half-way point from Earth Day, and as the idea grew, it evolved into America Recycles Day, of which the first national observance was officially held in 1997. In 2009, Keep America Beautiful took over main stewardship and promotion of the holiday.
In 2019, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, with help from The Recycling Partnership, developed a shared regional campaign and calendar for solid waste outreach called Know What to Throw. Campaign participants follow a shared schedule and assets that spotlight one recyclable item and one contamination item each month, with an emphasis on only recycling if it’s ‘Empty, Clean and Dry’. The campaign was designed around the pain points and positives common to the North Texas region's recycling programs.
In 2021, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling, in collaboration with Keep Texas Beautiful and Take Care of Texas, organized a statewide shared recycling education campaign and calendar at TexasRecyclesDay.org, with a collection of free assets promoted on a shared annual topic schedule. The goal was to turn every day into Texas Recycles Day.
The National Recycling Calendar continues this work on a national level.
The Calendar will synchronize recycling outreach schedules and messaging nationwide.
By harmonizing recycling education across manufacturers, recycling processors, and local governments, and aligning that messaging on a nationally unified annually repeating calendar that meets residents at the right time for each material, we can both amplify the impact of that messaging and provide a positive, more consistent experience for the American consumer-recycler.
To lower as many barriers to participation as possible, shared assets from the Calendar are:
completely free to use
standardized, often with space for customization
The Calendar emphasizes clear communication, using accessible visuals and language, and is informed by the following general concepts:
Recycling is American and Essential (‘Recycle Right America’)
Only Recycle When It’s Right (‘Empty, Clean and Dry’)
Recycling is different everywhere, recycle what you can where you are.
Clear, direct language (‘cables, cords, or hoses’ instead of ‘tanglers’)
Images over graphics, emphasizing the value of the material
blue = curbside/standard/single-stream recycling
green = compost/organics/food waste
black = landfill
Plastics & Glass
Plastics are optional.
Accepted plastics vary widely by program, have a high likelihood of contamination, and cause the most confusion, so we're leaving it up to each organization if and how you promote plastic recycling.
There are promising new technologies for recycling - and even upcycling - plastic waste into valuable new feedstocks, which will greatly increase demand for post-consumer plastics once refined. Great work is also being done by many global and international organizations like the US Plastics Pact and the Recycling Partnership, along with major plastic processors and manufacturers to standardize and simplify packaging and plastic types.
For now, we recommend deciding which plastics are right for your program to promote based on the specific needs of your community and the re-marketability of the materials.
If you don't know which plastics your program can handle, contact your recycling provider or your local government.
Glass is optional.
Like plastics, different types of glass have different compositions and processes for recycling. Currently, glass recycling also requires a high level of purity, is very sensitive to contamination, often breaks during collection, and the logistics of transport cut into the energy and ecological advantages.
New tech is being developed for recycling glass, and many successful glass return and reuse programs already exist.
For now, we recommend deciding if glass is right for your program to promote based on the specific needs of your community and the re-marketability of the materials.
If you don't know if your program can handle glass, contact your recycling provider or your local government.
Plastics &/or glass are important to my program, when should I promote them?
Spotlight plastics and/or glass during "Recycle Right" months.
Original content of the National Recycling Calendar is liberally licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, permitting non-commercial use, adaptation, and redistribution of the resources provided herein.
The National Recycling Calendar also features a curated selection of external resources and references, which are listed with attribution. Those materials should be shared as-is are subject to their respective copyrights and licenses.
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