NC Circular Economy Council

NC Circular Economy Council August 2023

DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser convened the North Carolina Circular Economy Council in Spring 2023 to identify ways to expand and accelerate beneficial impacts of recycling in the state.  

Recycling and other waste diversion activities are proven strategies for job creation and economic development, returning valuable materials to the circular economy for the manufacturing of new products. These activities also reduce the environmental impacts of material use and disposal, which helps save energy, decrease greenhouse gases, and conserve limited landfill space.

Members of the Council include leading recycling companies, non-profit organizations, industry associations, and product manufacturers, many of which have a national or global reach.

Circular Economy Council Findings

Over the course of the first three meetings of the Council in the spring and summer of 2023, members reviewed information on North Carolina’s circular economy and have made the following findings:  

  • North Carolina has a robust and multifaceted circular economy, putting the state in a strong position to compete for jobs and economic development in this increasingly important sector. 
  • The North Carolina circular economy is able to recycle a wide range of materials, from plastic bottles to paper, tires, metals, food waste, and electronics. It can innovate quickly to take on new waste streams such as discarded solar panels. The diversity of North Carolina’s circular economy helps create synergies between recycling companies and provides opportunities to recycle even more materials. 
  • In addition to providing in-state manufacturers with valuable feedstocks, North Carolina recycling companies also supply recycled materials to other manufacturers around the country and the world. 
  • The public should have confidence that materials collected for recycling are used by manufacturers to make new products. Materials that are collected and recycled in North Carolina are made back into an array of products that are used by consumers every day, such as new packaging, textiles, compost, and construction products. 
  • One of the keys to growing the North Carolina circular economy is access to a consistent supply of high-quality collected materials. Expanding the collection of materials will signal to companies and investors that North Carolina is a state where material supply is available and where opportunities for business growth are robust. 
  • The North Carolina public needs a better understanding of the impacts and benefits of recycling. Recent media stories have painted an excessively negative picture of recycling, helping to unnecessarily undermine public trust in the recycling system. This could hamper the development of increased supply that can drive job growth and recycling-based economic development in the state. 
  • North Carolina’s landfill capacity is limited. Increasing the diversion of recyclable materials from disposal will protect this capacity and reduce the environmental and social impacts of new or expanded landfills. 
  • North Carolina has one of the leading state recycling programs in the country that effectively connects public and private recycling efforts to maximize the benefits of recycling for the state and its citizens. Strengthening the program could amplify the state’s efforts to expand the circular economy and open more opportunities for business growth. 

Fall 2023 Infrastructure Tours

To celebrate and deepen awareness of North Carolina’s strength as a recycling state, the NC Circular Economy Council invited state leaders to a series of recycling facility tours in November 2023. The group toured Southeastern Container in Kings Mountain, Unifi in Yadkinville, and Powerhouse Recycling in Salisbury, highlighting three of the state’s leading and innovative recycling companies. Attendees got an in-depth look at the operations behind one step of the recycling process, with an explanation and understanding of how it fits into the larger circular economy.  

From Bottle to Bottle: NC Recycling Success Story