Rubicon introduces best practices guide for recycling programs

© Katrina Brown | Adobe Stock

Rubicon Global, Atlanta, has unveiled the RubiconMethod, a guide that summarizes best practices for organizations aiming to reduce their waste generation and keep materials out of landfills.

The company turned its best practices into a universal tool for running a successful recycling and waste reduction program. The RubiconMethod uses an acronym, DIVERT (Determine Initiate Vocalize Eliminate Roll-out Track) and builds upon the classic mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” by focusing on the “how” associated with implementing waste reduction and recycling best practices, Rubicon says.

The guide addresses commonly overlooked steps such as:

  • consistent placement of side-by-side bin stations with picture-based signage such as Recycle Across America’s (RAA’s) standardized labels to reduce contamination and increase recycling;
  • use of different colored liners (i.e., bags) for landfill (black), recycling (clear) and organic (green) bins to ensure materials end up in the correct stream when collected by custodial staff; and
  • eliminating waste from the start such as food, disposable tableware and individually packaged goods.

“The RubiconMethod reflects our mission as a certified B Corp. committed to solving the global issue of waste. In order to make the impact we desire, Rubicon chose to share its best practices with the world,” says David Rachelson, vice president of sustainability at Rubicon. “Most businesses want to start a recycling program, but have challenges navigating the complexities associated with keeping materials out of landfills and changing behaviors.”

“At Recycle Across America, our mission is to help recycling become economically viable and we’re doing this by implementing a nonprofit standardized label solution for bins, which makes it easy for people to begin to ‘recycle right,’ wherever they might be,” Mitch Hedlund, RAA’s executive director, says. “The chronic confusion at the recycling bin has been crippling the economics of recycling. The RubiconMethod is providing organizations of all sizes with a simple list of best practices to create successful and thriving recycling programs. This guidance is desperately needed.”

To download the practical guide to implementing the RubiconMethod, visit www.rubiconglobal.com/sustainability-guide.

Rubicon Global says it works with businesses, organizations and local governments across the United States and in select international markets to find new efficiencies and cost savings in their waste streams and to develop new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle materials. As a Certified B Corp., Rubicon says its mission is to solve the global issue of waste and create a more circular economy.

Carton Council touts recycling success

The Carton Council of North America, Denton, Texas, has reported that more than 62 percent of U.S. households have access to food and beverage carton recycling through local recycling programs.

In January 2017, when the 60 percent access milestone was met, the Carton Council announced that it had the approval of the Federal Trade Commission to place the standard “Please Recycle” logo on cartons. Since that milestone, more than 2.5 million households have gained access to carton recycling, end markets for recycled cartons have expanded and new technology for sorting cartons was piloted, according to the organization.

“Last year built upon nearly a decade of significant growth in carton recycling,” says Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America. “Not only did we continue to hit new milestones in household access, but this progress spurred increased consumer awareness, new industry collaborations and innovative technology and end market solutions to increase carton recycling efficiency.’’

© Mirexon | iStockphoto

The Carton Council formed in 2009 to increase carton recycling by helping develop an infrastructure for recycling aseptic and gable-top cartons used to package many food and beverage products, such as milk, juice, water, soups, wine and beans. At that time, 18 percent of households could recycle their cartons through local programs. Sixty-two percent access marks a 244 percent increase in access since 2009.

Currently, 13,300 communities across 49 states can recycle their food and beverage cartons. Of the 100 largest U.S. communities, 82 have access, including San Francisco and Grand Rapids, Michigan, both of which added cartons to their recycling programs last year.

When recycled, cartons are used to make office and writing paper, tissues, paper towels and sustainable building and construction materials.

The Carton Council attributes this success to:

  • Expanding end markets for recycled cartons: The ReWall Co., Des Moines, Iowa, which makes sustainable building materials out of recycled food and beverage cartons, doubled its manufacturing capacity in 2017 based on high demand for its products.
  • Bringing artificial intelligence to recycling: The Carton Council teamed up with AMP Robotics, Denver, to help maximize carton recycling by introducing artificial intelligence to the recycling industry. Two materials recovery facilities (MRFs), Alpine Waste & Recycling in Denver and Dem-Con Cos. in Shakopee, Minnesota, installed the AMP Cortex robot to sort cartons from other materials in the recycling stream. The robots continuously learn as they go and already have demonstrated success, says the Carton Council.
  • Collaborating with industry allies: Key to carton recycling growth is working with organizations across the industry to not only grow access, but to help educate about recycling. Collaborating with organizations like Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, Connecticut, and The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, have helped expand the carton recycling message.
  • Bolstering consumer education: Following the launch of the Carton Council’s first national digital consumer education campaign in February 2017, two toolkits were launched to continue to drive education: one for communities and one for companies and brands. Both toolkits include engaging content and graphics that can be shared via websites, social media, newsletters and other platforms.
  • Developing policy tools to improve recycling: Several tools were developed to assist local governments and others in developing and implementing policies that have been proven effective for improving recycling programs and increasing recycling of all materials.

“We recognize that building the infrastructure for carton recycling alone isn’t going to get people to recycle their cartons,” Pelz says. “We are looking at the full picture. This includes consumer education, engaging everyone in the supply chain, developing effective end markets, and leveraging new technologies so that carton recycling is economically and environmentally beneficial for all.’’

The Carton Council says it plans to increase awareness of, and access to, carton recycling; continue to work with companies and brands to add the “Please Recycle” logo to their packaging; expand end market solutions; support the development of technology to make carton recycling more efficient; and continue working across the industry to encourage the recycling of all packages.

The Carton Council is composed of Elopak, Oslo, Norway; SIG Combibloc, Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland; Evergreen Packaging, Memphis, Tennessee; Tetra Pak, Rockford, Illinois; and Nippon Dynawave Packaging, Longview, Washington.