Keefe HarrisonNational sustainability and recycling organizations The Recycling Partnership and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) are teaming up to build a roadmap for a stronger American recycling industry.

The initiative has been dubbed ASTRX (Applying Systems Thinking to Recycling), and leaders from the groups behind it say the effort is a push to change the recycling industry on a holistic level by creating more connection between recycling stakeholders in different sectors.

Keefe Harrison, executive director of The Recycling Partnership, and Nina Goodrich, executive director of the SPC, recently answered questions about the development of the ASTRX partnership.

Question: Tell us more about the impetus behind the collaboration.

Nina Goodrich: By combining the expertise of our two organizations, spanning from packaging design through material recovery, and then partnering with groups that represent material-specific recycling, we will be better able to comprehensively map barriers and opportunities within the recycling landscape. From there, we’ll be able to identify powerful tactics to advance the industry and deliver more high-quality recyclables to the supply chain.Goodrich_Nina

Question: Why is the development of such a map important to recycling improvement?

Keefe Harrison: Rather than a single, uniform industry, recycling is made up of a series of public and private sector sub-industries that work together to create a recovered feedstock supply chain. Understanding the interplay of those disparate, diverse components may unlock the key to new heights of sustainable recovery. Through ASTRX we will analyze the entire system and identify the most effective areas for improvement and intervention. By looking within and between each link in that system, we can route a considerably more informed and robust course of intervention.

Question: Will this initiative integrate SPC’s How2Recycle label?

Goodrich: We want to use the How2Recycle label to go beyond access and become recognized as the recycling standard of excellence for consumers and communities. We also want to leverage the community expertise and best practices developed by The Recycling Partnership to increase collection, provide consistency, and to reduce wishful recycling. Together we want to demonstrate what good looks like.

Question: What are you expecting the collaboration to produce?

Goodrich: First, consistency of information and the ability to connect the many different public and private players of the recycling system. SPC and The Recycling Partnership are collaborating, but we’re not alone – this is a group that will work for and with other industry partners. To fully capture the perspective of the entire recycling landscape, ASTRX will work closely with a number of other industry groups. That’s a must.

Keefe: Agreed. Then we’ll have the opportunity to build consistency around a core set of valuable recyclables. Confusion of the recycling system is the number one barrier to participation. This work will allow us to work in regions to build consistency – not just in how we communicate recycling with consumers but it’s how we measure that impact. This collaboration will leverage the assets of both organizations to provide more quality recyclable materials into the system. But we can’t work in a bubble. This initiative needs to support and be supported by other sectors, industry groups and governmental entities.

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