Recycling can save the planet. We can do it together.
The Recycling Partnership
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The Recycling Partnership

If you live in a major metropolitan area, you've probably complained about the fact that "garbage night" means that you're going to have to spend at least five minutes of walking downstairs, pulling your trash, compost, and recycling bins on the curb, and then debating whether you'll bring them back in first thing in the morning or on the way home from work.


Right now, you're probably thinking about what a bother it might be to have to put your shoes on and leave the comfortable warmth of your living room to ensure that all your trash and recycling is gone in the morning. So here's something to consider as you pull your slippers on: According to a new study by The Recycling Partnership, easy access to curbside recycling is a privilege a large number of Americans don't have.

The report, published in early 2020, explains that only half of Americans have the same access to curbside recycling as they do trash. Furthermore, many people who do have access to curbside recycling services don't use them at all, and those that do are not participating as fully as they could be. On average, that means only 32 percent of what's recyclable in the U.S. home actually makes its way to the recycling plant. More than 20 million tons of curbside recycling are lost to landfills each year.

How is this a problem? Not to get you down just as you're being reminded to take the recycling out, but landfill space problem is a real issue in the United States. As more and more garbage gets sent to the local dump, the space to leave it becomes rarer and rarer. Some landfills are already approaching capacity. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, not recycling puts a huge strain on non-renewable resources. When we don't recycle paper, for instance, more wood needs to be harvested to create fresh new sheets. And when it comes to aluminum, it takes 95 percent more energy to create it from raw materials than it does to reuse recycled metals. And making metal from scrap rather than new ore uses 40 percent less water and creates more than 90 percent less mining waste.

The Recycling Partnership

With all that in mind, it's clear that recycling isn't just necessary but something we all need to engage in to continue saving the environment. But in order for recycling to thrive and expand (especially to those who don't have access to curbside recycling), The Recycling Partnership makes clear that everyone from individuals to huge corporations need to step up and do their part to make renewing and reusing a regular and sustainable part of our lives.

"Every day we hear from citizens, communities, policy makers, corporate leaders, and other organizations who all want the same thing – a stronger recycling system," says The Recycling Partnership's CEO, Keefe Harrison. "It will take bold public-private partnership and leadership to make lasting improvements. Now is the time for action."

So how can we all step up to increase our recycling power? (Hey, it's kind of like being a superhero!) On an organizational level, it's imperative that we push for greater support of community recycling programs in our communities. And this doesn't mean that we just put out our bins every week. It means we need to lean on our governments for stronger policies and funding. That we demand corporations provide capital funding and technical assistance, and that recycling becomes not just an environmental but political issue when we're choosing which elected officials to give our support.

It's also time that we got more into recycling, too. That means making more of an effort to learn what is and isn't accepted for recycling in your community (pro-tip: check your community's recycling webpage) and understanding how the recycling system works so you know how we all play a role in making recycling successful. Maybe it means speaking to your family, friends, and roommates, or your colleagues at work. Maybe it's leading a recycling initiative at work. One thing's for certain — recycling can't succeed without all of us working together.

The Recycling Partnership

And here's what success looks like. If stakeholders from all levels of the chain participate more fully in recycling, The Recycling Partnership's study found that expanded recycling programs could result in conserving approximately 154 million barrels of oil and reducing gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. What does that look like in terms of impact to the environment? It's like taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways. And just as important: expanded recycling programs could create more than 370,000 full-time jobs, meaning more recycling would make a positive impact on both the environment and the economy.

"The state of the planet's health demands dedicated and swift action to protect natural resources and abate climate change," says Harrison.

That change can't happen without you.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Anyone who has gone through the process of disentangling themselves from an addiction knows it's an ongoing, daily battle. It may get easier, and the payoffs may become more apparent, but it's still a decision someone makes each day to stay detached from their substance of choice.

Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

"Today I have 31 years drug and alcohol free," Lowe wrote on Twitter. "I want to give thanks to everyone walking this path with me, and welcome anyone thinking about joining us; the free and the happy. And a big hug to my family for putting up with me!! Xoxo"

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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