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KS Recycling Rate: The Uncounted

Posted by Spencer Duncan at Jun 19, 2014 10:48 AM |

By Spencer Duncan

KOR Executive Director


Earlier this year, the state of Kansas conducted its recycling rate survey. Overall the results were great, indicating the state recycling rate exceeds 36%. This is an outstanding number considering we have no state recycling mandates in Kansas (some local governments do).

As I looked at the survey results, however, it occurred to me that Kansas recycling rate is likely much higher. Despite best efforts by our organization (KOR) and the state of Kansas, it is impossible to get the results of every recycling program in Kansas.

The surveys are voluntary, so not everyone responds. Also, the surveys only target programs known in the private and public sector.

Across Kansas, we have many companies collecting materials that go unreported. A few examples:

  • Electronic stores and hardware stores accept items such as handheld devices, batteries and light bulbs. Many of these stores are national chains that put these items on trucks, take them to a central location somewhere outside of Kansas and recycle them through a  national or regional program.
  • Grocery and Super Stores accept plastic bags, which go into their own recycling programs, again on a national or regional level.
  • Many companies have internal reuse and recycling programs, where items such as cardboard and metal either get repurposed within the company or sent to national or regional recycling programs.

These are good programs, and in pointing this out the goal is not to chastise these companies for not reporting local collections (although that would be helpful and useful).

The fact is, many people use these programs on a regular basis and the amount of recycled goods collected does not get factored in to our state recycling rate. So, while I can’t tell you what the percentage of recycled materials are from these programs, I do think we can safely say it would add several percentage points to the state total, which continues to highlight continued growth in recycling efforts by Kansans.

I would also encourage anyone who works with or knows individuals within companies doing these kinds of collections to discuss with them ways collection amounts could be reported locally, so that we have a better idea of how much materials Kansans are recycling.