One Giant Leap for Recycling Infrastructure

By Greg Janson
April 12, 2016
A bin is filled with plastic containers

Recycling in the U.S. has come a long way. More communities and companies are utilizing recycling programs than ever before and the infrastructure to support it continues to grow. But the truth of the matter is, we’re still just scratching the surface.

Consider the fact that only 30% of post-consumer plastics ­– mainly items featuring the No. 1 and No. 2 codes stamped on products to help sort for recycling – are currently being recovered in the U.S. The vast majority of plastics featuring the No. 3 through No. 7 codes, however, are either landfilled or baled for exportation. This includes such items as yogurt cups, butter tubs, flowerpots and more.

With the help of several partners, including the Closed Loop Fund – a social impact fund initiated by Walmart and other leading consumer companies to invest $100 million in low- to no-interest loans for entities seeking to develop local recycling infrastructure – QRS Recycling has taken a significant step to embrace this opportunity. CLF recently financed the final $2 million of our state-of-the-art, $11 million recycling facility in Baltimore, which began accepting materials in October.

Specifically designed to account for No. 3 through No. 7 post-consumer plastics and other materials that create hurdles for U.S. recycling efforts, this facility has the potential to serve as a model to be replicated regionally across the country. Created to serve communities within a 700-mile radius of Baltimore, the facility is the largest of its kind in the U.S., with a capacity to recover and process 4,500 tons of recyclable materials per month.

Through the purchase of mixed bales from smaller, single-stream recycling companies, we’ll recover an estimated 324,000 tons of recyclable plastic and metal in our first 10 years of operation. Through the sorting process, we’ll also gather an estimated 216,000 tons of paper, plastic film, non-recyclable plastic and other trash to produce an alternative fuel source to coal. That’s 540,000 tons processed – the equivalent of 27,000 truckloads or 9,000 railroad boxcars of material – in a single decade. And it has the potential to translate into a reduction of 600,000 to 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – equal to taking 140,000 cars off the road.

We’re providing a consistent, responsible option for dealing with post-consumer plastics and other waste. The more we as a country buy into solutions like these, the quicker we build a more sustainable future for everyone. Greater recycling infrastructure produces more raw materials for the products we all need and want. It creates an opportunity to onshore more of our recovery efforts right here in the U.S., stimulating the economy, creating new manufacturing jobs, saving taxpayer dollars and so much more. We’re solving a problem rather than continuing to ship it off.