Many countries in Europe are taking advantage of public-private partnerships to improve their waste management efforts while reducing costs and increase energy efficiency. While fewer cities in the United States have followed suit, the practice is catching on here.
According to the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University, European cities are more effective at recycling waste products compared to the United States. In terms of all waste in the United States, just 24 percent is composted or recycled and 7 percent is converted into energy. Conversely, 69 percent is landfilled in the U.S. In major European cities, on the other hand:
- Germany: 62 percent recycled/composted, 38 energy from waste
- Netherlands: 61 percent recycled/composted, 39 energy from waste
- Austria: 70 percent recycled/composted, 30 energy from waste
- Belgium: 62 percent recycled/composted, 37 energy from waste
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the recycling rate for municipal solid waste dropped from 34.7 percent in 2011 to 34.5 percent in 2012. Cities can follow the European model and use public-private partnerships to counter the overflowing landfills while generating clean energy to cut costs.
PP3 Recycling Model
In a piece for Environmental Leader, Elisabeth Comere outlines the potential of public-private partnerships for the purpose of reducing waste and increase recycling projects. Comere cites several instances of private sector companies teaming up with local governments, recycling facilities and other organizations to develop a sustainable waste management strategy that reduces landfilling while investing in technologies to generate energy from waste.
Strategies to achieve these ends can range from implementation of advanced technologies to convert solid waste into electricity, to thorough outreach campaigns to educate consumers on recycling best practices. Furthermore, local governments are realizing sustainable recycling programs also typically include incentives and supportive policies to initially engage individuals and organizations in the project and offer tools to maintain best practices. Some of these partnerships have already proven successful in the United States.
Florida Recycling Partnership
The Florida Recycling Partnership is a coalition of businesses and associations statewide that work together to proactively boost recycling rates and cut down on waste. The coalition also actively speaks with lawmakers to push for more environmentally-friendly legislation, while providing effective public education outreach. Some of the coalition’s initiatives include:
- Implementing recycling initiatives in businesses
- Opt for recycling materials whenever possible
- Encourage companies to build products with recycled materials
- Educate businesses on the recycled material options for their products or packaging
The Florida Recycling Partnership includes state and local governments, scientific organizations and private sector enterprises such as Office Depot.
Indiana’s Recycling Bill
The state of Indiana also took major steps toward advancing recycling efforts by passing House Bill 1183. The legislation established a state recycling goal of 50 percent by 2019. Indiana officials will now collect annual reports from recyclers reporting on all recycling activity to see where rates are low and make necessary changes. A uniform recycling activity report will be posted public starting in 2015, and education programs will extend to communities with low recycling rates.