It’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t recycle; a time when all discarded material was lumped into the category of “garbage” and trash cans overflowed with plastic, aluminum and paper. The 16th anniversary of the nationally-recognized America Recycles Day last week is a testament to the longstanding commitment to educate and motivate people to reduce their environmental footprint through recycling, as well as the progress we have made.

Thanks to the efforts of individuals, companies and our government, the practice of recycling has slowly become a part of our daily routines. The EPA estimates that America produces around 250 million tons of trash per year and recycles or composts approximately 35 percent of this total.

America Recycles Day

To make recycling convenient when people are out and about and preserve America’s most visited national park, The Coca-Cola Company partnered with the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service in 2010 to launch the first ongoing recycling program on the National Mall. In the past year, almost 130 tons of material have been recycled and diverted from landfill.

If you’ve enjoyed a sunny day with a refreshing beverage on the National Mall, chances are you’ve seen and used one of the 320 permanent blue recycling bins available to visitors thanks to this partnership. An additional 400 temporary bins are rolled out for special events, such as the Presidential Inauguration and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, as part of Coca-Cola’s more than half a million dollar investment in recycling on the Mall.

America Recycles Day

Volunteers placing recycling bins on the National Mall for a large-crowd event.

“What makes the National Mall Recycling Program unique is the partnership with Coca-Cola and its location. The program is an example of how you can be sustainable in terms of both the environment and the aesthetic qualities of a historic and nationally significant park,” said Leon Scioscia, Director of Volunteer Programs at the Trust for the National Mall.

In recent years, the partnership has evolved to include a public education component to encourage people to make a difference by recycling and help further the National Park Service goal of cutting waste tonnage in half by 2020. Advertisements on the Mall, in DC Metro stations and on MetroBuses have displayed Coca-Cola's, the Trust's, and the National Park Service’s commitment to prevent waste and preserve the landscape by recycling and urged the public to do the same.

If you’re taking in the living history of the National Mall, don’t forget to use the bins scattered throughout the park for your convenience. Thinking about incorporating recycling into your daily routine?  Here are some major benefits to giving the products you use a second life, brought to you by Keep America Beautiful:

  • Conserving natural resources: Recycling conserves trees, water, and minerals – preserving the environment for future generations.
  • Reduction of the need for landfills: Recycling allows material to re-enter the marketplace as new products instead of taking up space in landfills.
  • Pollution prevention: Recycling avoids greenhouse gas emissions (caused by processing and extraction of raw materials) equivalent to removing more than 34 million cars from the road each year.
  • Energy savings: Recycling reduces the need to extract and process raw materials.
  • Job creation: Recycling helps create new jobs in the United States for both the recycling industry and manufacturing.
Olivia Kerr is Communications Manager at The Coca-Cola Company and Jeremy Granoff is Communications Assistant, Trust for the National Mall.