What would it be like if every town in America had their own version of a stop sign complete with their own symbol meaning stop along with their choice of color? Perhaps some would choose the word stop but some might choose a picture. Some would be red but others might be purple.
Well, this is exactly what has happened in the recycling industry. With no clear direction from the recycling industry or government officials, we have a mishmash of signs with no universal symbols or colors telling us where and what to recycle.
Until now, beginning this month, Recycle Across America and industry leaders will introduce and provide standardized signs for recycling bins for everyone. This is a major step in fixing the problem and clearing up confusion for businesses and consumers alike.
It took a woman with a green marketing perspective
For the past twenty years this has been a problem that no one saw. Until green dynamo, Michelle “Mitch” Hedlund, co-director of UPonGREEN Environmental Advancement Foundation and founder of eco-profiles.com, named the problem and provided a solution during her keynote presentation to the recycling industry executive committee at the 2009 RAM/SWANA Conference in Minneapolis.
As a result, Recycle Across America (RAA) was formed along with a national signage committee representing nearly every level of the recycling spectrum, including: leading national recycling collectors, recycling associations, Fortune 100 companies, national manufacturers, national retailers, recycling consultants and agencies, solid waste industry leaders, composting companies, public school associations, parents, students, national leaders of faith-based organizations, government environmental authorities, e-waste recycling companies and more.
Download the signs for FREE
Just by visiting www.recycleacrossamerica.org anyone can print the signs themselves at no cost. Or they can order long-wearing adhesive labels professionally printed on durable and cleanable material to attach to their bins. On the website there is a library of signs that people can choose from which work for most, if not all, collection and sorting routines in all communities. Additionally, logos can also be added, making the labels a positive branding tool for businesses and organizations; and households can add a photo to create a more personalized statement about their commitment toward recycling.
There is still more to do
Even though we feel like we are good recyclers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), currently less than 10 percent of recyclable materials from businesses in the United States, is recycled each year. If that number could reach 75 percent, that would be the environmental equivalent of removing more than 33 million cars from the roads in the U.S..
The hope is that by having clear and universal labeling of recycling containers, we can get our recycling numbers up. The theory is that if everyone knew that a bin was for bottles or cans, there would be less cross contamination and more participation. Janitorial staff would also at a glance understand what is garbage and what is recycled material without having to spend time deciphering bins with different labels in each office.
Here’s to you Ms. Hedlund! Let's hope it works!