by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov
As part of SLCgreen’s goal to reach zero waste by 2040, Salt Lake City signed on to a new initiative, the U.S. Plastics Pact. The Plastics Pact affirms SLCgreen’s commitment to a circular economy for plastics, which envisions that all the plastics used by our community will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, so that they stay in the economy and out of the environment.
What is the U.S. Plastics Pact?
The U.S. Plastics Pact brings together government entities, businesses, nonprofits, research institutions, and other stakeholders in a common vision of a circular economy for plastics (check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative for more information!). Having a diverse group of organizations sign the pact ensures that the problem of plastics can be tackled at every level where issues arise, collectively.
This vision aims to ensure that plastics never become waste by eliminating the plastics we don’t need, innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.
By joining the U.S. Plastics Pact, activators agree to deliver the following four targets:
- Target 1: Define a list of packaging that is to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021 and take measures to eliminate them by 2025
- Target 2: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
- Target 3: Undertake ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025
- Target 4: By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%
While these seem like lofty goals, before now, there has not been a convening organization in which large corporations, municipalities, waste processors, and partners come together to tackle the problem. We’re particularly hopeful because some significant global packaging and consumer companies are participating.
Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution
Signing the pact is part of Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution, in which the city adopted “Zero Waste as a guiding principle for all city operations and for outreach and actions within the community” and set the ambitious goal of eliminating waste by 2040. The Climate Positive 2040 plan, which followed the resolution, provided a roadmap to reaching zero waste. The City’s goal is to reach 50% diversion rate in the next several years, with a 70% diversion goal by 2025.
What are we doing to get there?
Salt Lake already has a number of innovative programs in addition to our curbside recycling program to ensure we meet our ambitious goals.
- Offering and maintaining a robust recycling program for residents.
- Our Master Recycler Program educates and empowers community leaders to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill.
- We’re proud to support Wasatch Resource Recovery, whose anaerobic digester diverts food waste from the landfill and turns it into natural gas and nutrient-rich fertilizer.
- Salt Lake City requires the recycling or reuse of waste generated from construction projects and demolition.
- The Salt Lake City business & multi-family recycling ordinance requires these entities over a certain size to have a recycling program
- Our Waste & Recycling Division is actively researching ways to recycle the few plastics we currently can’t process
If going zero waste is one of your long-term goals, Utah Recycling Alliance offers resources including pop-up CHaRM events, and fix-it clinics. And although Plastic Free July has already passed this year, you can apply the same plastic free tips to implement the circular economy on a smaller scale in your own household.
Check out the full guide to what you can recycle in Salt Lake City’s curbside program here (don’t forget, you can recycle plastic bags and films and many grocery stores) and remember, reducing and reusing are the first two steps to zero waste, before you even start recycling! As the last step on that chain, containers you put into your SLC bins are recycled in North America and turned into new plastic products, keeping them in use.