University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Northstar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise

Materials Cycling: A Focus on Plastics

Initiative: Materials Cycling


Less than 30% of plastics used in bottles and less than 9% of all plastic waste is recycled in the United States. While municipal recycling programs have traditionally focused on bottle recycling, other plastics – including film and rigid plastics – compose the majority of available plastic waste. As communities seek to reduce waste sent to landfills and meet higher diversion targets, there is increased interest in including these additional plastics in recycling programs. Through the presentations and discussion in this webinar, we explored plastics recycling and its future potential from a variety of perspectives.

We were joined by Samantha MacBride, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at CUNY – Baruch College and author of Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Recycling in the United States. Her current research is on the contested politics of municipal organic waste management in the U.S. and Canada. She focuses on how landfill gas recovery, industrial-scale composting and anaerobic digestion, and conversion technologies are differently understood and advocated for in relation to threats of climate change by social movements, business sectors, and the state.

We were also joined by Keefe Harrison, consultant at Resource Recycling Systems, where she brings her direct experience in facilitating cross-sector solutions to the increased recovery and recycling of packaging. Formerly, Keefe served as the director of communications for the Association of Post-consumer Plastic Recyclers, the project director for the Southeast Recycling Development Council, and as a local government assistance team member for the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach. She has worked in the waste reduction and recycling field since 1998 and is an active national speaker and published author on recycling issues.

Tim Smith, Director of the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, facilitated.


Keefe Harrison

Samantha MacBride

Tim Smith

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