SXSW Eco Session Teaser (with Video): Recycling More vs. Recycling Right in America - Oct. 7

Recycling Discussion to Include Expert Panel, Field Trip to Unique Waste Complex in Austin, Texas
Sep 22, 2014 12:05 PM ET

Guest Speaker Series: Sharon Kneiss of NW&RA

This article is a preview for an upcoming panel on recycling at the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, and was originally shared with the SXSW Eco community on the Web at


Our waste is increasingly viewed as a resource from which we can extract new value and repurpose as new products. Innovations like curbside pickup of recyclables and “single-stream” recycling collection have nearly tripled collection rates (hovering around 35 percent), and the habit of recycling has become rooted in our society.

But contamination of the waste stream has become a major concern. Materials must be high-quality for the economic model underpinning most recycling programs to work. Some items don’t belong in recycling bins. Yet contaminants continue to infiltrate the recycling stream, diluting commodity quality. This not only makes it harder to continue increasing recycling rates, but also jeopardizes our existing recycling infrastructure.

We must be better educated on how recycling works in order to improve our recycling habits. A Harris poll NW&RA recently commissioned found that one in five Americans consciously place items in their recycling bins even if unsure they’re recyclable, and one in 10 admit to having placed trash in their recycling bins because their trash bin was full.

The private sector waste and recycling industry and other pioneers behind many innovations are ready to move the discussion beyond recycling more, to recycling better. I’m privileged to moderate a panel on this topic:  “Recycling More vs. Recycling Right in America,” along with other big names in sustainability: Keep America Beautiful president and CEO Jennifer Jehn, Phil Bresee from the City of Philadelphia’s recycling department and Susan Ghertner, director of environmental affairs with H-E-B Grocery Company.

Please join us for what promises to be a lively discussion. You’re also invited on our exclusive field trip experience Wednesday to the Texas Disposal Systems waste management complex. Join us for lunch and an inside look at how modern waste and recycling facilities work. And to indulge your wild side, we’ll sneak a peek at some exotic wildlife housed at TDS’ land reclamation project. Register soon, because space is limited!