On March 30, 2021, consultancy Eunomia announced the release of a report commissioned by food packaging manufacturer Ball Cooperation that compares recycling rates across the US state-by-state.

The report is the first comprehensive analysis providing an overview of the recycling rates among US-states. The analysis focused, among others, on plastic bottles and trays, glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, as well as cardboard. Each US state is ranked according to material-specific recycling rates and an overall recycling rate based on data from the year 2018. The three states with the best overall recycling rates were Maine (72%), Vermont (62%), and Massachusetts (55%).

Previous analyses often based reported recycling rates on data describing the collection. However, this does not accurately reflect recycling rates due to the substantial removal of contaminants before the actual reprocessing of new products takes place. The presented report explains that it bases its results on actual recycling rates calculated using data provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, counties, municipalities, sorting facilities as well as material processors.

The report found that higher recycling rates correlated with more comprehensive and current data as well as with state-led reporting systems due to more accurate measurements. Furthermore, according to the authors, deposit return systems, curbside recycling, as well as extended producer responsibility schemes are identified to be important contributors to effective recycling systems.

The objective of the report was to “establish a 2018 baseline from which policymakers, service providers, operators, and investors can make informed strategic decisions on what measures are needed in the short, medium, and long term to support a circular economy, replace primary with secondary materials, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Several US states such as California, Washington, and New Jersey, have considered bills introducing minimum recycled content requirements in plastic packaging. Several stakeholders are advocating for an improvement of the US recycling system, including proposing a nationwide blueprint of the recycling sector (FPF reported) and recommending key investments (FPF reported).

Read More

Keller and Heckman LLP (April 19, 2021). “New Report Provides State-by-State Comparison of Recycling Rates for Food-Packaging Materials in the United States.

Sarah Edwards, Sydnee Grushack (March 30, 2021). “The 50 States of Recycling: A State-by-State Assessment of Containers and Packaging Recycling Rates.” Eunomia

The Canmaker (March 31, 2021). “New report ranks US states based on recycling performance.”