Beyond 34: Recycling and Recovery for A New Economy is a first-of-its kind multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at increasing the current 34% recycling rate in the United States by providing a scalable model for improving recycling and recovery rates. The goal of the initiative is to help communities, cities, and businesses across the country improve their local recycling systems and grow local economies through the application of a three-phased model. The City of Orlando served as the Beyond 34 pilot location, and the U.S. Chamber Foundation recently announced that it is applying the Beyond 34 model in the City of Cincinnati and also developing online tools and resources so any community can learn about and apply its model.
The application of the Beyond 34 model in a community is aimed at increasing local recycling rates. The first phase activates local stakeholders across the recycling supply chain (e.g., manufacturers, haulers, retailers) to start a dialogue as a community and identify barriers and opportunities. The second phase focuses on analysis of the local recycling system to identify areas of highest impact and developing business cases for implementation projects in those high impact areas. The final phase implements some of these projects to begin transforming the recycling system, while also developing measurable results to share locally and nationally. Ultimately, the goal is for the Beyond 34 model to be applied in enough communities to move the national recycling rate beyond the current 34%.
The project is a private-public partnership between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, technical partners, local governments, local chambers, and major corporations. The project is made possible through support from The Coca-Cola Company, The Dow Chemical Company, The Plastics Industry Association, Republic Services, Target, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and the Walmart Foundation. Learn how to get involved in the project here.
Why is Beyond 34 Important?
The current linear “take-make-waste” economy, which has been highly successful in delivering economic development throughout the 20th century, is no longer viable for continuing progress in the 21st century. Our current systems of commerce and production processes largely follow the linear model, in which very little attention is paid to how product—and its components—will be used and reused. The result is most resources are used merely once or for a single purpose and then discarded as waste.
The concept of eradicating waste from the system, which underpins a concept called the circular economy, has been picking up momentum as a viable alternative to the linear economy that decouples economic growth from resource constraints. It is a restorative or regenerative economic model in which resources are endlessly cycled back into supply chains.
The circular economy represents a tremendous opportunity for business and the global economy. Shifting to the circular economy could unlock an estimated $4.5 trillion in additional economic growth by 2030 by turning current waste into wealth, according to research from Accenture, and could be the biggest economic revolution in 250 years.
A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that in a single year, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for 757,000 jobs, $36.6 billion in wages, and $6.7 billion in tax revenues. Still, there are a number of challenges to recycling—falling commodity prices, contaminated recycling streams, strained government budgets, and fewer markets for materials. Application of Beyond 34’s collaborative, data-driven model helps communities bring the recycling supply chain together and equips them with the needed analyses to identify how to best increase and improve recycling rates as well as make their waste management systems more circular.
Beyond 34 is part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation's broader commitment to help companies shift to the circular economy. Learn more about our programming here.
After announcing Orlando as the pilot city location in September 2017, the Beyond 34 partners will work together to build a strong foundation that will help Orlando become more sustainable.
The first event held on October 19, 2017, titled the Orlando Region Waste Impact Workshop: How Public and Private Sectors Collaborate for Recycling System Optimization, brought together many local stakeholders. This invite-only event convened business leaders, recycling planners, and key stakeholders in the Orlando region to start the dialogue on what an optimal recycling system looks like and what the barriers and opportunities are to achieving that desired state. Since that time, a gap analysis was completed, and USCCF held additional local stakeholder meetings, as well as announced the funding of more than $100,000 in implementation projects to increase the Orlando region’s recycling rate. To learn more about the Orlando pilot effort, check out the Beyond 34 Case Study: The Development of a Recycling Public-Private Partnership.
The Chamber Foundation’s current focus for Beyond 34 is two-fold. One aspect is continuing the work in Orlando. The Chamber Foundation will ensure execution on the Beyond 34-funded implementation projects and report on the results. Further, it has hired local project managers to keep engaging local stakeholders and help advance the effort more broadly to increase recycling rates in the region. Additionally, the Chamber Foundation is focused on its expansion effort that builds off of the Orlando pilot. The expansion effort involves applying a refined version of the Beyond 34 model in the City of Cincinnati, as well as developing the online resources necessary for any region to learn about the model and deploy it on its own. The expansion activities began in spring 2019 and will continue through early 2021.