Recycling

America Recycles Day was started in 1997 by the National Recycling Coalition. Since 2009, it has been a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful. Events are held around the country to educate people about recycling not only for its positive effects on our environment but also for its importance to our economy. According to Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, of Keep America Beautiful, “America Recycles Day helps to shine a light on our ongoing efforts to educate and inspire people to reduce, reuse and recycle, and when they buy, to buy products made from sustainable and recycled materials.”

On November 13, 2015, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring November 15 America Recycles Day:

Every American has a role to play in preserving our planet for future generations. Being good stewards of our environment and protecting our natural resources are imperative tasks for ensuring our children and grandchildren live in a clean and sustainable world, and recycling is a pivotal way each of us can do our part. Today, we acknowledge the importance of reusing materials and reducing consumption, and we recognize that a recycling bin may often be a better alternative to a garbage can.

Each year, as much energy is saved recycling and composting as is consumed by 10 million American households. …

Recycling is one way all people can join in the effort of maintaining a sustainable society. Reusing goods and reducing consumption, in addition to donating old or unwanted materials, can have significant impacts on the earth, as well. …

Communities across America must continue promoting activities that encourage people to recycle and to conserve so we do not take for granted today the world our children will inherit tomorrow. We owe it to them to leave behind a stable, secure planet, and that begins with preserving the natural blessings of our Nation. On this day, let us work to fulfill our obligation to our next generation by safeguarding our resources and working with our friends, family, and neighbors to protect the world we share.

On this America Recycles Day we’re recycling our blog post from July 21, 2017, titled Recyclable Materials:

Recycling is beneficial for the environment. It keeps materials out of landfills and helps to reduce the need for harvesting materials from the natural environment. When cities first started recycling programs the assumption was that the cost of the collection and sorting of the materials would be covered by the proceeds of the sale of those materials. In recent years this has not been the case. The value of some materials has dropped dramatically while the cost of recovering them has risen.

Reclaimed paper, a once valuable commodity that was in high demand by the newspaper industry, is one of these materials. As print newspaper circulation dropped dramatically, so did the need for reclaimed paper. Reclaimed plastics is another of these materials. As oil prices remain low, it’s less expensive for manufacturers to make products from new plastic than it is for them to use reclaimed plastic. Since much of the reclaimed materials in the United States are sent overseas, recent legislative action by some countries limiting the amount of imported reclaimed materials has also negatively affected the market making it more difficult to sell such materials.

Today’s market size is the value of a ton of mixed recyclable material for 2011, 2015 and an estimated value for 2017.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2011, 2015 and 2017
Market size: $180, $80, and just shy of $100 per ton of mixed recyclable material respectively.
Sources: Paul Singer, “Recycling Market in a Heap of Trouble,” USA Today for the Lansing State Journal, April 21, 2017, page B1; Obama, Barack, “Presidential Proclamation — America Recycles Day, 2015,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, November 13, 2015 available online here; Pulley, Brenda, “America Recycles Day Marks 20th Anniversary, Focuses Nation’s Attention on Recycling Every Day,” Keep America Beautiful Press Release, November 2, 2017 available online here; “America Recycles Day,” National Day Calendar available online here.
Image source: 9355, “recycle-reuse-recycling-recyclable-57136,” Pixabay, September 20, 2012 available online here.

Thrifting

Several decades ago thrifting—shopping at used merchandise stores—was associated with poverty. More recently while some continue to shop at used merchandise stores to save money, many see thrifting as a lifestyle choice, a way to find inexpensive, unique pieces for their wardrobe or to find pieces to repurpose for do-it-yourself projects. The younger generation, especially, has embraced thrifting. Perhaps as a reflection of that, the 2012 Macklemore song “Thrift Shop” became a hit. The official music video on YouTube, as of May 2017, had more than 1 billion views and more than 5 million likes.

The total revenue of used merchandise stores in the United States is today’s market size.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2017
Market size: $17 billion
Source: Princess Gabbara, “How Thrifting Became Chic,” Lansing State Journal, May 7, 2017, pages 1D, 5D; Ryan Lewis, “Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop Feat. Wanz (Official Video),” YouTube, August 29, 2012 available online here.
Original source: Dun & Bradstreet
Image source: PublicDomainPictures, “second-hand-sign-thrift-shop-20113,” Pixabay, March 1, 2012 available online here.

Recyclable Materials

Recycling is beneficial for the environment. It keeps materials out of landfills and helps to reduce the need for harvesting materials from the natural environment. When cities first started recycling programs the assumption was that the cost of the collection and sorting of the materials would be covered by the proceeds of the sale of those materials. In recent years this has not been the case. The value of some materials has dropped dramatically while the cost of recovering them has risen.

Reclaimed paper, a once valuable commodity that was in high demand by the newspaper industry, is one of these materials. As print newspaper circulation dropped dramatically, so did the need for reclaimed paper. Reclaimed plastics is another of these materials. As oil prices remain low, it’s less expensive for manufacturers to make products from new plastic than it is for them to use reclaimed plastic. Since much of the reclaimed materials in the United States are sent overseas, recent legislative action by some countries limiting the amount of imported reclaimed materials has also negatively affected the market making it more difficult to sell such materials.

Today’s market size is the value of a ton of mixed recyclable material for 2011, 2015 and an estimated value for 2017.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2011, 2015 and 2017
Market size: $180, $80, and just shy of $100 per ton of mixed recyclable material respectively.
Source: Paul Singer, “Recycling Market in a Heap of Trouble,” USA Today for the Lansing State Journal, April 21, 2017, page B1.

Used Merchandise

UsedMerchStores

Whether it be the post-recession, budget-conscious consumers or eco-friendly consumers who’d rather reuse than buy new, more and more people are buying used merchandise. In a July 2013 survey by America’s Research Group, nearly 20% of adults surveyed said they shopped at a secondhand store in the past year. According to the Association of Resale Professionals, there are an estimated 25,000 used merchandise stores in the United States, which includes thrift, resale, and consignment shops. This number is projected to increase by 7% annually.

The graphic shows U.S. sales made through used merchandise stores from 1992 through 2012. What is worth noting is the fact that, as is true for all categories of products, used merchandise is sold online as well as through retail outlets. The sales figures presented in the graphic do not include online sales of used merchandise, think eBay… We suspect that if those sales were added to the sales made through retail outlets, the significance of a shift towards used would be even more striking.

Today’s market size is the sales volume of used merchandise stores in the United States 2002 and 2012.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2002 and 2012
Market size: $9.5 and $13.4 billion respectively
Source: Lindsay VanHulle, “As Recession Alters Shopper Attitudes, Secondhand Shops Thrive,” Lansing State Journal, August 25, 2013, pages 1E, 3E. The graphic was made with data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series of reports on the retail trade sector, specifically: “Estimated Annual Sales of U.S. Retail and Food Services Firms by Kind of Business: 1992 Through 2011,” released March 29, 2013 and available here.
Original source: First Research and the U.S. Bureau of the Census
Posted on August 28, 2013