Businesses, Environmentalists Explore New Solutions to Increase Recycling
Atlanta, GA - Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR), a project of Global Green USA, has launched a new initiative uniting beverage and recycling companies, environmental organizations and government agencies to tackle a major challenge- turning the growing number of wasted beverage containers into a valuable raw material resource.
The Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project (MSRP) is the first known effort to comprehensively evaluate recycling opportunities throughout the beverage container value chain, based on the principles of systems thinking.
The project's diverse participants assembled on June 28 and 29 in Atlanta to formally begin discussions. BEAR's members include Beaulieu of America, Tomra North America, EvCo Research LLC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Grassroots Recycling Network and the Container Recycling Institute.
In addition to BEAR's members, partners in the MSRP include: Waste Management Inc., Southeastern Container Inc., the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance and The Coca-Cola Company.
Although these groups often disagree, they all acknowledge the number of beverage containers annually recycled has slowed and the recycling rate is declining. Some business participants view the project as vital to safeguarding their investments in recycling.
"Increased recycling is critical to our company's growth," said Clint Hubbard, chief administrative officer of Beaulieu of America, echoing a common sentiment in the plastics recycling industry. (Beaulieu is a major carpet manufacturer that uses recycled plastic bottles as raw material.)
The MSRP is distinguished from other efforts addressing beverage container recycling by: its dedication to involving all stakeholders; emphasis on an objective, frank analysis of costs, business opportunities and environmental benefits throughout the recycling system; and its insistence on suspending long-held biases while exploring all potential solutions.
"We hope to secure wide support for new recycling strategies that move towards eliminating waste," said Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Grassroots Recycling Network.
Conceptually, the MSRP strategy is based on the belief that understanding the whole system is the best way to address any dysfunction within a system, a model well known, whether in biology or engineering.
"In the case of recycling, we observed that every player was keenly aware of their own costs and needs, but that there was a need for a system-wide analysis involving all key stakeholders," said Pierre Ferrari, BEAR's Chair.
To provide an objective, quantitative analysis of costs, BEAR has retained a research consulting team comprising R.W. Beck Inc., Franklin Associates Ltd., the Tellus Institute and Sound Resource Management Group.
The first stage of the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, managed by Edward Boisson of Boisson Associates, is expected to be completed in Fall 2001. By that time, project participants hope to agree on a set of promising solutions.
"Then the hard work of building support and preparing to implement the solutions begins," said Matt Petersen, executive director of Global Green USA. "By fostering a value shift that reinvigorates recycling rates, we hope to create substantial environmental benefits and business opportunities."
Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling, a project of Global Green USA, is a coalition dedicated to increasing the national recycling rate for used beverage containers to 80 percent. Its members are united by agreement on principles including: minimizing environmental impacts while improving all packaging, creating sustainable jobs and businesses, and working with clarity and honesty to understand costs and evaluate the widest range of policies and practices to achieve its goal.
Global Green USA -- created in 1994 as an affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International -- works in cooperation with individuals, industry, and government to foster a global value shift toward a sustainable and secure future. More information on BEAR and the MSRP can be found at www.globalgreen.org/bear.