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Industrial Recycling

Women from the collection hub in the Bantayan Islands are examining the fruits of their labor, carpet tiles made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets. The women clean, weigh and sort the nets, after which they are baled and stored, ready for export to Cebu City.

At least half of waste is industrial and commercial. Sources range from manufacturing, construction, and mines to restaurants, office buildings, and schools. The stream of waste they produce is diverse; not all of it can find a second life, but much can. Industrial and commercial recycling reduces emissions when new products are made from recovered materials, rather than virgin resources.

A suite of strategies can enhance recycling rates:

  • Extended producer responsibility laws make companies responsible for managing goods post-use—an incentive to make products that are longer lasting, easier to fix, and as recyclable as possible.
  • Marketplaces for secondary materials facilitate the exchange of recyclable and reusable goods.
  • Innovation in conversion technologies makes more materials recyclable.
  • Circular business models transform the dominant industrial approach of take, make, waste—recapturing “waste” as a valuable resource.

Recycling needs to be one piece of an integrated approach, that also includes making more efficient use of materials and extending product life. Together, they can reduce emissions from extracting, transporting, and processing raw materials. Because society currently uses far more of these materials far more quickly than the earth can regenerate, such practices address parallel challenges of resource scarcity.


Take, make, waste: Anderson, Ray C. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

half of waste…outside households: Hoornweg, Daniel, and Perinaz Bhada-Tata. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2012.

e-waste…low-income countries: Baldé, C.P., F. Wang, R. Kuehr, and J. Huisman. The Global E-Waste Monitor—2014. Bonn, Germany: United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, 2015.

Extended producer responsibility: UN-Habitat. Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities, London and Washington, D.C.: UN-Habitat/Earthscan, 2010.

U.S. Materials Marketplace: Hepler, Lauren. “Materials Matchmaking: GM, Nike, and Scaling the Circular Economy.” GreenBiz. November 23, 2015.

Walter Stahel…“new technologies”: Stahel, Walter R. “The Circular Economy.” Nature 531, no. 7595 (2016): 435-438.

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