October 30, 2009

ABA Press Office
(202) 463-6770



The American Beverage Association (ABA) released today a report showing that nearly three in four Americans have access to curbside recycling programs - but the infrastructure is in place for millions more to gain access to this convenient and efficient form of recycling.

The report, prepared independently by the environmental firm R.W. Beck, found that an estimated 229 million Americans, or 74 percent of the total population, have access to some form of curbside recycling at home.  The data was compiled through a broad national survey of local recycling officials.  Curbside recycling makes it easier and more convenient for people to recycle -- and thus more likely to recycle.

While widespread access to curbside recycling is encouraging news, the study underscores the great potential for up to 95 million more Americans to have regular curbside pickup of recyclables.  For these Americans, the infrastructure is in place for curbside recycling if two barriers are removed: extending recyclables collection to all who currently have curbside trash pickup and lifting of recycling fees for those who have access to "subscription" curbside recycling service.  For example, right now, an estimated 36 to 60 million residents currently have trucks come to their curb to collect their trash but not their recyclables. So the pieces are in place for those same trucks, or entities, providing the trash collection to all to collect recyclable materials at the curbside. Also, subscription services can often be a disincentive for people to participate in existing curbside recycling programs.

"We want Americans to think inside the bin and take advantage of the great access to convenient curbside recycling that most of us have," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association. "By the same token, the study shows tremendous potential to provide curbside to millions more Americans if we can break down some barriers to this service. This important research provides a deeper understanding of the current state of recycling in the United States and where the opportunities are for expansion of these programs and increased participation."

The conclusions of this report show greater curbside access than previous studies, which were much less comprehensive.  This survey contacted local officials with firsthand knowledge of the recycling programs and was designed to capture a larger sample of the population.  Between improved access and other upgrades to existing recycling programs, the United States has significant untapped potential to improve recycling rates within its existing framework.

"Recycling is a powerful climate change strategy for cities and counties that provides substantial environmental and economic benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Kate Krebs, director of sustainable resources at The Climate Group, with whom the ABA partners on the Recycle Together initiative and other environmental issues.  "It is critical that parallel access along with other simple best management practices as highlighted through Recycle Together be integrated in every community so that we realize the maximum benefits of sustainable materials management."

ABA commissioned the study to determine how many consumers have access to recycling of beverage containers so that it can continue to support efforts to improve access to the most convenient and efficient methods of recycling.  The survey methodology combined direct responses from the largest counties and cities in the United States with a sampling approach designed to capture a representative sample of the much more numerous small communities.  The survey targeted 280 million people (90 percent of the total population of the United States) and more than 1,200 counties containing 20,000 communities. 

The full report is available by clicking here.

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The American Beverage Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The Climate Group is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with government and business leaders to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

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