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Is Access Everything?

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7 February 2017 – “If you build it, they will come.” Over the years, this classic line from “Field of Dreams” has been applied to business thinking again and again, and when it comes to recycling, the “build it” mantra has in many ways summed up the industry’s strategy over the last 25 years.

The thinking among policy-makers is that if you provide access to recycling, people will recycle. Unfortunately, while this concept may have worked for a fictitious Iowa farmer, it’s simply not sufficient when the goal is robust municipal materials recovery.

This article explores why even with extraordinary access to recycling, recycling rates in the U.S. are so low. Just as the resiliency of an agricultural system depends on diversity in terms of number of crops, high recycling rates are the result of a number of factors – not just access. This article explores what those factors are, including a diverse recycling system with targeted collection programs and economic instruments that incentive participation.

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