America’s Recycling Outlook, An Interview with WWF’s Roberta Elias

We sat down with the World Wildlife Fund’s Director of Policy, Roberta Elias, to ask her about the outlook for recycling in the United States and how the federal government can help us move to more circular systems for our waste.


ODP: Increased recycling seems like a no-brainer yet in the United States, our recycling systems are still woefully inadequate. On the federal level, what’s been the biggest barrier to legislation that would help expand recycling and offer support for cities and states working to become more circular?

RE: The environmental and public health impacts of both the production of the materials we use in our daily lives and the all too often leakage of those materials into nature after they’re discarded is something we are just waking up too.  The public and decision makers are just beginning the conversation of what needs to come next.  We are really pleased to see the commitment to doing things better going forward, whether that means rethinking how we use products or bringing the kind of public-private investment to the table to keep natural resource value in the system.

ODP: How much of a role does the federal government have to play in bettering our recycling practices versus the actions that states and cities must take?

RE: Any solution needs to work where material use and recycling really happens.  That means building in flexibility to promote consumer equity and access and creating workable solutions for states, municipalities, cities, and towns.  This is a national conversation that will require a national scale umbrella and funding mechanism capable of accelerating change across the board with solutions that will work where people work and live.

ODP: What are some of the recycling bills that WWF has recently supported and is there bipartisan consensus on any of these pieces of legislation?

RE: WWF supports several bills that propose solutions to aspects of the problem.  These include the PLASTICS Act, Save our Seas 2.0, and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.  We have been pleased to see Republicans and Democrats, and the Administration, come to the table to support change. 

ODP: Can the data and lessons learned from the ReSource initiative be used to help craft better waste management policy in the U.S.?

RE: ReSource has taught us so much about the importance of measuring the footprint of industry and what commitment to collaboration, transparency and action  can really deliver.  We look forward to bringing that understanding and sense of urgency to the table to move forward approaches that will transform material use, bring private dollars to the table and deliver high value, recycled content to industry, promote consumer equity and access, and strengthen the US voice globally.

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