How Americans Stack up in the Global Recycling Game (Spoiler Alert: We’re Losing)

The nation’s curbs may be lined with blue bins, but that’s not enough to win America a recycling prize. In fact, the nation only recycles about 34 percent of its waste, far behind nations like Sweden, Australia and Germany.

These three nations are the current leaders in the global recycling game, ranking in the top three for highest recycling rates across the world.

What are these countries doing that the U.S. isn’t? And is there a solution that can change American’s wasteful behaviors?

we want refillHow Sweden and Germany handle recycling

In Sweden, less than one percent of its garbage goes to landfills. The country recycles what it can and burns the rest at 32 waste-to-energy plants. The burning garbage creates steam, which spins turbines and produces energy that’s transferred to the power grid.

Residents are so good at recycling that the country has to import garbage from neighboring countries to keep energy production up.

In Germany, residents are meticulous about recycling. While Americans balk at washing and sorting materials, it’s second nature to Germans who sort 65 percent of their waste into color-coded bins.

The country has recycling bins in every public place imaginable. Each bin has four compartments; one for paper, one for plastic, one for clear glass and one for colored glass. The bins are labeled in both German and English to make sure tourists follow the recycling rules too.

The country even mandated organic recycling in 2015, according to The New York Times. Residents must now toss compostable food items into a brown bin.

Like Sweden, Germany burns anything that can’t be recycled and turns it into energy. Sky-high recycling rates force the country to import garbage to keep energy plants running.

Changing recycling behavior in the U.S.

The American recycling system is far different. Some cities don’t have recycling at all, and those that do must follow a set of rules that are specific to their local plant.

Aside from varying rules, Americans aren’t as diligent about sorting. Separating the aluminum top from a yogurt cup and washing both out seems tedious to many.

How can this wasteful behavior be turned around? Consumers can advocate for better solutions. Since recycling rates are stagnant, and have been for the last twenty years, it’s time to try something new.

It’s time to refill.

Consumers don’t have to wash and sort plastic bottles anymore; with refillable technology you can simply refill your laundry detergent, shampoo, glass cleaner – or just about anything that comes in a container that you should recycle.

Retailers can set up refill stations that allow consumers to refill bottles on their own. Consumers bring in bottles, set them inside the refill station and select the product they want refilled.

It’s fast, affordable and makes a positive impact on the environment. But, retailers aren’t embracing the technology yet. They’re waiting for consumers like you to show interest.

Since Americans are losing the recycling game, it’s time to try something different.

Tell retailers #WeWantRefill. Sign the petition below and join the refill movement today.