See why a group of corporate giants want your empty cans and bottles.

In case you haven't noticed, recyclables are kinda badass.

From our curbsides, they’re launched into an odyssey of tumbles and churns along miles of conveyor belt.


Photo by U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons.

In the end, they emerge anew, transformed from crushed empty vessel to resilient post-consumer material. (A smart choice for the eco-conscious manufacturer!)

It's magical, I know.

Sadly, recycling is not the fate of the majority of our blue bin soldiers.

Two-thirds of our recyclables here in the U.S. never make that final turn in the loop. Instead, they meet early graves in earth, sea, and even air if they’re incinerated.

Image via OpenClipArt (altered).

It’s not for a lack of demand. Companies are fiending for green manufacturing alternatives.

“Big companies ... hoping to burnish their environmental credentials, can’t get their hands on enough of it,” wrote The New York Times.

The problem is we're not equipped to feed the beast. We need more advanced recycling infrastructure, but how do we pay for it?

Enter: Corporate America.

In 2014, Ron Gonen, New York's former deputy recycling czar, started the Closed Loop Fund, a $100 million venture capital — sorry, social impact — fund with its eyes on the green. Two greens, actually: sustainability and money.

The investors are a roster of companies we wouldn't usually deem friends of the Earth, including, among others, Walmart, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Keurig, and Goldman Sachs.

Maybe you're thinking, "Wait ... now corporations want to make money cleaning the messes they create?"

The answer is yes. Yes they do. (That's capitalism for ya.)

But it doesn't appear to be as vulturous an endeavor as we might imagine.


Gross. Image by J.J./Wikimedia Commons (altered).

Their game plan includes zero interest loans to cities and below market loans to private companies that want to build and modernize recycling facilities. That doesn't sound so bad — assuming they're not playing gotcha! with the fine print.

Their goal is simple: They want to prove recycling can be profitable.

Closed Loop Fund is investing in projects with the potential to divert massive tonnage of waste from landfills.

Their pilot investment was in a Baltimore-based facility that's getting harder-to-recycle plastics ready to sell in post-consumer plastics markets.


Photo by Kristian Bjornard/Flickr.

They're also funding upgrades to dated recycling plants in Ohio and Iowa, converting them into more efficient single-stream systems.

Gonen told The New York Times they're also looking to invest in a company that would turn mixed glass into paving and building materials.

Can we increase recycling without making wealthy corporations even wealthier?

Yup. And we needn't look any further than the largest investor of all: the government.

If private companies want to invest in recycling, they should be our guests. But protecting the environment is really all our responsibility. As voters and taxpayers, we should expect more public investments, too.

And it should start with a national recycling mandate which, believe it or not, does not currently exist.

Recycling rates have stagnated in recent years. But we can change that by making it a national priority and giving everyone the means to do it.

It might cost us on the front end, but hey — consider it an investment.

To learn more about how modern recycling facilities work (which is fascinating, by the way), check out this animated video by RE3.org:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less