The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership are joining forces to focus on the state of curbside recycling in the U.S.

To accomplish this expansive task, The Partnership will take a hard look at 400 curbside programs, gathering and analyzing 17 distinct markers for each. Work has already begun, with early results expected in September 2016 and final analysis slated for October 2016.

“The breadth and depth of data this project will produce, coupled with the meaningful analysis of trends and potential areas of improvement, will allow the EPA to more effectively support communities through their transitions to sustainable materials management,” says Alan Farmer, EPA Region 4 division director. “The potential for positive impact cannot be overstated, and our collaboration with The Recycling Partnership is shaping up to be fruitful indeed.”

The research will focus on EPA regions 3, 4 and 5, but it will expand to capture the national picture, as well. Selected communities will include the most populated cities in each state, along with a number of other communities to round out the geographic distribution.

“The secondary material stream begins with local programs, and there is a great deal of untapped potential there,” says Cody Marshall, The Partnership’s technical assistance lead. “Looking at snapshots of programs across the country will allow us to cross-reference best practices and pinpoint opportunities to increase recovery. Those insights will in turn allow national and federal organizations to create targeted action plans.”

The Partnership will catalog information on 39 categories of recyclable materials, along with collection frequencies, tonnages, funding mechanisms, service providers and a host of other details. It will analyze this data for trends and gaps in curbside recycling infrastructure, and ultimately deliver a graphically rich summary report along with the full database.

“We like to say that recycling is a loosely connected, highly dependent industry, and it will take meaningful engagement of all players to make the most of the system,” advises Karen Bandhauer, The Partnership’s project director. “It takes strong partnerships to deliver the tons needed to make tomorrow’s new consumer goods, and this initial engagement with the EPA fits the bill.”