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Axios' Alison Snyder and Dan Primack hosted a conversation on how policymakers and businesses can work together to eliminate waste in the environment, featuring congresswoman and founder of the Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), founder and CEO of The Recycling Partnership Keefe Harrison and managing director of Closed Loop Partners Bridget Croke.

Keefe Harrison discussed the scope of the plastic waste problem and how companies can be held to higher standards around environmental protection.

  • On how quickly the plastic waste problem is accelerating: "If we don't do something by 2050, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish. That's my number one motivator."
  • On going from a linear to a circular economy: "If we model our economy around that circular system where the products from one thing becomes fuel for another, we start to see opportunities to make sure that we're again thinking about the design and delivery of goods, not just what is something packaged in."

Bridget Croke unpacked the economic potential of a circular economy and the shift by big companies to move away from single use plastics.

  • "When a large company like a Unilever or a Wal-Mart commits to using recycled content or doing refill models, that sends a market signal. That shows there's a lot of business opportunity in those emerging models and that these companies are moving away from using kind of extractive virgin plastics and materials."

Rep. Haley Stevens discussed the challenges of new technology applications and how grants and non-profits play an important role in funding recycling programs.

  • On new recycling technology at the local level: "We've got a technology problem. The logistics are there. You've got a lot of households that have fully embraced recycling. You've got municipalities who are prepared for it. Where they're stopped is on costs."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with American Chemistry Council president and CEO Chris Jahn and discussed modernizing recycling and the future of plastics.

  • On how to rethink plastics as a material: "Advanced recycling is a key part of the puzzle here in fixing these issues. And from our perspective, we need to fundamentally alter how we think about waste and plastic waste. We need to look at plastic as a valuable resource in the same way that we do aluminum or paper. We can take those products and break them back down into their basic building blocks and then reuse them for new products."

Thank you American Chemistry Council for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Expert: Large companies could boost recycling through circular economy

Photo: Axios

Large companies could spur a nationwide shift toward a circular economy, in which items are recycled back into supply chains for packaging and products, Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual .

Why it matters: Several large companies committing to using recycled materials could substantial savings, as they move away from "spending billions of dollars throwing another multibillions of dollars of valuable materials in the trash," Croke said.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."