Recent News

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  • 07 May 2019 5:36 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Recent article from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance referencing our colleagues from The Recycling Partnership and a statement from SERDC Executive Director, Will Sagar.

    After months of articles and broadcasts telling Americans that recycling is dying, that the recycling fad is passing, a new message is emerging. Recycling is not dying although it has been severely challenged by both China’s import restrictions and a pervasive single stream system that is no longer sustainable.

    The Recycling Partnership, comprised of leading national brand name companies is reassuring the country that recycling is here to stay in its Earth Day messaging:

    "Many of the opponents of recycling like to focus solely on the economics of collection and sortation. In doing this, they fail to account for the environmental and societal benefits of recycling that are crucial to our planet’s survival."

    A CityLab article concludes: In any case, there are strategies that local programs can use, either separately or in combination, to find their way back to health and continue recycling waste. China’s policy change may not represent the much-feared “end of recycling” in the U.S. so much as an inflection point.

    Will Sagar, executive director of the Southeast Recycling Development Council, issued the following corrective statement declaring, “Recycling is troubled, but not dead”.

    Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, accurately point out that there are problems in recycling programs, but any inference taken that discounts the value of recycling to our economy is in error.

    Read More

  • 30 Apr 2019 10:39 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Many recyclers are upset and disheartened over the onslaught of negative recycling coverage in the press. So, what do you do when the press calls? Help them.  Our colleague Chaz Miller responds to the latest recycling press coverage.

    Is recycling finished? You might think it is based on the onslaught of negative recycling stories in the American press. They paint a woeful picture or imply that most recyclables go to the local waste-to-energy facility, or even proclaim the end of recycling might be right around the corner. With all this relentless negativity, you can’t help but think recycling is doomed.

    This problem is worsened because, unfortunately, reporters don’t always get all the facts right. These stories commonly claim that China took the bulk of our recyclables and now they’ve said no to all of them. In fact, export markets, including the Chinese, never took the majority of our recyclables. Domestic markets did and still do.

    Nor has the Chinese government banned them all. Yes, mixed paper and mixed plastics are banned. However, that government has made it clear it is happy to accept pulp made from recycled paper along with pellets and resin made from recycled plastics. It just wants the processing done elsewhere. Moreover, China continues to allow sizeable imports of clean old corrugated containers because they are a valuable feedstock for Chinese paper mills. These important points appear to be inconvenient nuances.

    Understandably, many recyclers are upset and disheartened over this coverage. I’m frustrated, but I understand that the press thrives on unexpected or bad news. An old journalism maxim says “dog bites man” isn’t news because it’s not unusual. “Man bites dog,” however, is news. After all, how often does that happen? Failing recycling programs are news. The thousands of curbside programs that continue to collect, process and sell recyclables are not.

    Part of the problem is simple. Most journalists are generalists. Very few specialize in the environment. Outside of the trade press, none have any expertise in recycling. Instead, when researching a new issue, such as recycling, they read what they find online. Early mistakes get repeated and magnified. After all, another journalist wrote it, so it has to be true. This explains the errors of fact about how much was shipped to China and what has been banned. Add to that the confirmation bias of looking for bad news and finding it and the result is inevitable.

    I’ve been dealing with the press ever since I started at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency several decades ago. I learned quickly that most reporters are just like you and me. They have a job to do and want to do it right. Just like you and I, they are not perfectly objective and have their own biases. Some may not like your industry or organization. Some might have already figured out what they intend to write and are looking to you for confirmation. But most just want to get the facts right and meet their deadline.

    So, what do you do when the press calls? Help them. Return their calls quickly. Ask what their deadline is and get your answers to them before it. Know the most important points you want to convey and stay focused on those key messages. Give them accurate data and never lie. Feel free to disagree, but don’t get nasty. After all, the press buys ink and airtime by the barrel.

    If a story upsets you, write a response. Keep it short. You have a better chance of getting printed if your response is fewer than 200 words (the first three paragraphs of this column). Stick to the facts. Don’t call the reporter an idiot. Be calm and make your case. If they decide to print your letter, newspapers will usually contact you before they print it. They often do minor editing and want your approval. They also may want proof of claims you made.

    Over the years, I’ve had far more good experiences than bad with the press. Sometimes, they may have disregarded what I said. Sometimes, they may have included the key points I made. As long as they listened with an open mind, I’ve been happy with the encounter. I’ve run across a few obviously biased reporters and researchers. But those are relatively rare experiences. They do seem to be increasing, though, especially if plastics are involved. Something about plastic products seem to bring out the worst in some reporters. But even those instances are relatively rare.

    Above all, treat the press with respect. When you do, they are more likely to call you back when they need more information.

    Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry. He can be reached at  Reposted from Waste

  • 22 Apr 2019 3:53 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Grant funds of up to $500,000 are available to communities in the SERDC region that want to offer curbside recycling, increase participation rates by going to recycling containers over bins/bags or equipment needs to make recycling more efficient and effective in their communities.

    Proposals are due to SERDC by May 24, 2019 for the first round of funding review.  More information on the grant is here.  If you intend to apply, please email so we can judge volume.

  • 22 Apr 2019 3:49 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

     Two things you can do starting now: 

    Clean it up. The primary need is to reduce contamination. Current contamination levels of 25% are typical. This greatly increases the processing cost and reduces the value of the market bound material.  

    • Messaging about what to recycle must be more clear.
    • There is a need to focus on the targeted material types.
    • Get back to the basics we all understand. Bottles, cans, cartons, cups, and clean paper.
    • Keep the food, foam and film (bags) out of the bin. 
    • Tanglers and junk, such as cords, hoses, string lights, coat hangers, don’t belong in the bin!
    • When in doubt, check the local public works website for information.

    Increase participation. Increasing participation will also reduce the cost per ton. A focused outreach program to encourage recycling is needed.

  • 29 Nov 2018 11:30 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    National nonprofit Keep America Beautiful and The Coca-Cola Foundation on America Recycles Day announced the opening of the application period for the 2018 Keep America Beautiful/Coca-Cola Public Spaces Recycling Bin Grant Program. In its 12th year, the initiative is designed to increase access to recycling in community public spaces across America. Grant applications will be available online through Dec. 30 (11:59 p.m. EST), 2018. Applicants may visit to apply.

    The 2018 program will distribute 4,500 recycling bins in public space locations ranging from athletic fields to fairs and festivals to downtown streetscapes and playgrounds and other on-the-go settings. The program is funded through a $350,000 grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to Keep America Beautiful, which in turn awards recycling bins through a competitive, merit-based application process.

    Eligible recipients for the 2018 Public Spaces Recycling Bin Grant Program include government agencies, colleges and universities, civic organizations, public and local nonprofit groups throughout the United States. Keep America Beautiful will award the grants in mid-January 2019 and make arrangements with suppliers to deliver recycling bins directly to the recipients in the first quarter of 2019. 

    “Community recycling is one of the key ways The Coca-Cola Foundation is helping communities address litter and support the environment. In partnership with Keep America Beautiful, we can help communities reduce litter by offering grants for recycling bins in parks, recreation areas, campuses and city streets,” said Helen Smith Price, President of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

    Read more

  • 29 Nov 2018 10:35 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    The Coca-Cola Foundation Awards $500,000 to SERDC to Build Recycling Infrastructure in the Southeast

    On November 12, at the SERDC Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, the Coca-Cola Foundation announced an award of $500,000 to the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) to expand recycling in the Southeast through the launch of a Recycling Infrastructure Grant Program.

    Bolstering Infrastructure
    Investment in physical infrastructure, such as recycling carts, material recovery facility (MRF) upgrades, recycling trucks or transfer stations to support investments in curbside recycling infrastructure, are key to dramatically increasing material recovery - connecting material generation with hungry end markets in the southeast and helping to close the loop for packaging.

    “With the Coca-Cola Foundation’s generous support, this grant will support efforts to expand comprehensive curbside recycling in the Southeastern United States,” said Will Sagar, Executive Director at SERDC.

    Two-year rolling grant cycle
    The grant program, implemented over the next two years, will make measurable improvements and catalyze investments in recycling infrastructure. Southeastern communities (defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) can apply for the grant funding.  Recycling carts, material recovery facility (MRF) upgrades, recycling trucks, or transfer station construction will be included as eligible under the RFP if it leads to unlocking investments in curbside recycling infrastructure overall.

    This program will include collaboration with The Recycling Partnership, state recycling officials, local government partners, and other organizations as appropriate. The grant targets investment in infrastructure that unlocks new material supply that is currently being landfilled.  Awarded grants will include a mix of infrastructure deployment alongside technical assistance and educational materials.

    Organizations are invited to read more and download the application criteria for the grant at The grants will be awarded on a rolling basis.

    The grant’s objectives include fostering communication among these groups, promoting sustainable recycling programs, and coordinating educational and public awareness activities related to recycling.  By doing so, this would further SERDC’s primary purpose of increasing the collection and recovery of materials and in turn fostering economic development.


    The Coca-Cola Company has contributed more than $13 million to support recycling programs and infrastructure and helped place more than 1 million recycling bins in communities throughout the U.S. These efforts support the company’s recently announced World Without Waste initiative, which aims to collect a bottle or can for every one the company sells by 2030.  The Coca-Cola Company is a long-standing sponsor of the Southeast Recycling Development Council.

    The Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) was formed in 2005 because of the need for a regional recycling organization in the Southeast with the goal of bringing additional materials to markets.  SERDC’s mission is to unite industry, government and organizations to promote sustainable recycling in the Southeast. SERDC’s website is

    For more information:
    Will Sagar, Executive Director

  • 05 Oct 2018 12:17 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Concerned about the sustainability of recycling? You need to be at the Summit!

    • Earlybird registration ends Monday (Save $100)
    • Hotel block closes Tuesday-- don't risk a hotel room sellout or price increase, book now.
    • Monday's EPA Making the Case for Recycling Toolkit Training Workshop (1-5 pm) is free through Monday when you register "on scholarship"
    • Two receptions, Exhibit Hall, Expert speakers and more.
  • 01 Oct 2018 10:13 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Registration Ends Friday, October 5

    Make connections, grow your business, and build a better tomorrow by attending the 5th Annual Recycling Business Connections on October 9 in Greensboro, NC. The Carolina Recycling Association, NC Recycling Business Assistance Center, and SC Department of Commerce are working together to provide a unique networking opportunity for you to make connections new & old that will help grow your business.


  • 06 Sep 2018 9:03 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    SERDC is pleased to offer this unique webinar with three experts who will provide information on successful programs for ensuring high quality curbside recyclables collection. They will share their tricks for improving material quality, and offer insight into what works – and doesn’t work, in residential single stream curbside recycling programs.

    This forward-looking webinar will include tips from experts, and tactics for successful recycling in 2018. Join us Thursday September 27 at 1 pm ET for a one-hour deep dive into successful recycling in our high-stakes, no-contamination world of recycling and come away with tools for success in your community.  The webinar will be moderated by Susan Robinson, Federal Public Affairs Director of Waste Management.

    Michelle Metzler is Waste Management’s Public Outreach Manager in the Pacific Northwest. For over a decade, Michelle has been working directly with customers, providing information to ensure customer know how to recycle right. Michelle currently leads a team of professionals and interns who have been able to keep inbound contamination in programs in the Pacific Northwest under 10%. Learn how these Best Practices work, and ask questions of Michelle about their successful programs; 

    Bob Cappadona is Vice President at Casella Recycling, and has been in the trenches for over twenty-five years, working with communities in the Northeastern U.S. Bob has been actively engaged with cities in the greater New England area implementing programs to improve the material quality collected for recycling. We’ll get insight from Bob about some of the successes in driving contamination reduction out of municipal programs – and what it takes to make these improvements. 

    Scott Mouw is the Senior Director of Technical Assistance at The Recycling Partnership. Passionate about taking a systems approach, Scott enjoys putting recycling data to work to help community programs thrive. Prior to joining The Partnership, Scott spent a career directing North Carolina’s highly regarded state recycling program. He has participated in a wide range of regional and national initiatives to advance recycling, including overseeing the development of The Recycling Partnership while serving on board of the Southeast Recycling Development Council and working with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the Association of Plastics Recyclers, the Glass Recycling Coalition, and AMERIPEN. Scott and his family call Raleigh, NC home.

    Read more and register

  • 24 Aug 2018 9:50 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    At this week's WasteCon “Fighting Contamination" workshop, representatives from The Recycling Partnership, Waste Management, Keep America Beautiful and the Southeast Recycling Development Council had attendees brainstorm ways to reduce contamination in their local areas.

    One theme that stuck out was public education and the challenge of getting people to change their behavior. The Recycling Partnership advocated for a simplified marketing approach that used a more “direct ask” (e.g., a poster with bold letters saying “Don’t bag your recycling”) to initiate one change at a time instead of listing off multiple steps for people to take. Keep America Beautiful emphasized the need for consistency in education.

    Read More

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