Getting Federal About the Recycling Crisis

In order to offset market and environmental challenges to the U.S. recycling industry, universities, MRFs, and even the federal government are uniting to find solutions.

In 2017, the REMADE (Recycling Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions) Institute was launched to conduct research on potential strategies for improving recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse. The U.S. Department of Energy has been partnering its investments with private funds, leading universities, companies, and environmental groups in order to support research projects that will reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in the future. This will also lead to recycling being more profitable in the U.S. and increasing the competitiveness of the industry.

The Rochester, N.Y. based organization announced in May of this year that it has so far awarded grants totaling over $5.9 million to more than 10 research projects. But this is only the first round—the REMADE Institute has selected 31 projects, totaling nearly $15 million in investments.

The plan for the project is to invest up to $70 million over the next five years in order to aid the U.S. recycling market amidst the global restrictions and to counteract climate change, rising carbon emissions, and high energy consumption with new technologies and innovation. According to the REMADE Institute website, today’s U.S. manufacturing account for 25% of its energy consumption.

Efforts are focused on ways to improve the recycling of paper, plastics, electronics, tires, and aluminum, as well as equipment modifications in order to keep the U.S. recycling market competitive and profitable. In the current U.S. recycling market, virgin materials are often cheaper than recycled feedstock. The Institute aims to help offset this discrepancy through improving gathering and sorting technologies as well as discovering more efficient ways to remove contaminants.

For example, trace contaminants like copper, zinc, nickel, vanadium, and manganese can be difficult to remove from recycled metals, making them harder to recycle efficiently. But the development of new cost-effective leaching technologies that can physically separate the impurities from the metals such as melting, distillation, and reprocessing or electrochemical separation could be revolutionary.

In the world of paper recycling, Virginia Tech is working on better separating contaminants like ink from recovered paper to brighten post-consumer fibers and boost consumption.

In order to boost the recycling of plastic bottles and carpeting, Oklahoma State University, Niagara Bottling, and Shaw Industries are experimenting with combining both materials to make repairable plastic pellets and acoustic panels.

Other projects focus on increasing the recovery of flexible packaging and plastic film and optimizing MRF’s ability to sort them, increasing the use of post-consumer rubber in new tires and pavement, and of course heavy equipment manufacturing improvements.

Despite market challenges, it’s clear that the U.S. recycling industry is not going down without a fight. Massive investments that cross beyond industry lines indicate the importance of recycling moving forward, no matter the difficulties it may be facing.

We will continue to stay on top of the latest trends in the recycling industry and provide the timeliest updates to our readers. Berg Mill has a long history as one of the pioneers in the industry, we are here to help you navigate through all the recyclable import changes. If you handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill supply via our website or phone at 866-333-BERG. Talk to us about purchasing all your scrap paper, plastic, metal, textiles, glass grades, e-waste, and any other materials.  Make sure to check out our new consulting department as well to help you navigate through any issues you might have.