The State of the Recycling Industry in 2021

AJ Gonzalez | December 28, 2021

Waste 360, Dec 23, 2021


As the chatter around recycling markets soared in 2021, so did misinformation. Waste360 editors and contributors saw the industry evolve throughout the year, and examined why the recycling industry is not broken. Still, work is left to be done to increase the industry’s infrastructure, boost recycling rates and reduce contamination. Here are the top stories that gave a glimpse into the complex world of recycling.

1. The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Supply Chain, Logistics and Profitability
By Kezi Cheng, Tobias Egle, Janina Motter

The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy is a three-part series. Part 1 focuses on Key Technologies. Part 2 focuses on the Battery Supply Chain, Logistics and Profitability. Part 3 focuses on Challenges and the Role of Policy.

Read the series here.

2. The Return of Recycling Markets
By Chaz Miller

Donnie Downer. That’s what I felt like for the last three years when speaking about markets at recycling conferences. The news was almost uniformly depressing. Following the Chinese government’s 2017 announcement about ending recyclable paper and plastic imports, markets went down and stayed down. The press went on an orgy of negative stories. We were told recycling was “broken” or worse.

Read Chaz Miller’s column here.

3. Why the Recycling System Is Not Broken
By Jeff Wooster

“Is recycling broken?” It’s a question I am frequently asked. The answer is that recycling is not “broken” – but as it stands, it is still too specialized to reach the goal of achieving a complete circular economy. To achieve this goal, we need to embrace the opportunities that recycling can offer – a mass market solution that’s affordable and available to everyone, everywhere.

Read Jeff’s column here.

4. Episode 4: Inside Li-Cycle’s Rochester, NY Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Facility
By Stefanie Valentic

In this special episode of Stef Talks Trash, Li-Cycle Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Tim Johnston gives viewers an inside look at the company’s new commercial lithium-ion battery recycling facility.

Spoke 2, located at Eastman Business Park in Rochester, NY, is North America’s largest capacity facility of its kind.

Watch the episode here.

5. John Oliver Is Wrong: Recycling Is All About Individual Responsibility
By Chaz Miller

You may have seen John Oliver’s March 22 “Last Week Tonight” program about plastics and recycling. The show was a mishmash of fact, opinion and misstatement that painted a desolate picture about plastic recycling in particular and recycling in general. Oliver blamed the plastics industry for convincing us that our failure to recycle is our fault. Instead, he asserted, “the real behavior change has to come from manufacturers themselves”.

Read Chaz’s column here.

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