- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has chosen Cincinnati as the next city to implement its Beyond 34 (B34) recycling initiative. The goal is to increase an estimated 34% national recycling rate through a collaborative, data-driven and scalable model in local communities that simultaneously promotes economic growth.
- Cincinnati is the second B34 city, following Orlando, FL in 2017. Last year, the U.S. Chamber Foundation released a report that highlighted steps taken during the Orlando project, encouraging other communities to replicate the model.
- The Cincinnati program will be a refined version of the Orlando model, serving as an opportunity to build up the resources and tools available on the Beyond 34 website so that any community can research and apply the model moving forward.
This latest B34 initiative will be a public-private partnership between the U.S. Chamber Foundation, the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. The city was chosen for its existing commitment to recycling through local policies, recycling education and data collection. Cincinnati previously reported recycling participation rates the foundation considered remarkably high, while also pledging to achieve "zero waste" by 2035 in the Green Cincinnati Plan adopted last year.
The city collects recyclables every other week and uses RFID technology in collection bins (a factor in the foundation's selection) to gather data displayed on its Open Data Portal and Recycling Participation map — which is then analyzed to inform future recycling policy decisions. The city has also been promoting recycling for non-traditional items, such as textiles, housewares and e-scrap. Leaders anticipate Beyond 34 will help them identify new projects to build on that work.
Cincinnati's current diversion rate is 22.5%, according to data from Hamilton County. The city aims to accelerate its "zero waste" goal through participation in B34, but it has not yet issued a new diversion rate target.
The B34 initiative differentiates itself from some other recycling programs through its significant focus on the economic benefits of reducing disposal costs and creating jobs, as opposed to solely emphasizing environmental benefits. An analysis conducted as part of Orlando's B34 participation found the region could add nearly 8,500 "green" jobs by boosting its recycling rate to 75%. A similar analysis will be performed on the Cincinnati region during its B34 participation.
Beyond this local work, B34's plan to compile a robust, publicly-accessible archive of data and best practices that other communities can use to improve their recycling rates is seen as a key component of the initiative's next phase. While recycling is commonly considered an intensely regional industry, communities can learn from each other and retain the program pieces that best fit their unique situation.
"The Chamber Foundation intends to be active in cities besides Orlando and Cincinnati, but the need to increase and improve recycling cannot wait for the Chamber Foundation to go city by city applying its B34 model," Scott Breen, lead project manager, told Waste Dive via email. "The Chamber Foundation is developing publicly available online tools and resources so that communities across the U.S. can learn about the Beyond 34 model and discover information from all of the leading recycling organizations in one place. Then each community can develop a program that works best for its needs and constraints."