Activists, industry reps, and government officials are gathering in Seattle, Wash., this week for the National Recycling Congress, but the mood isn’t exactly festive. Seems recycling has fallen on hard times: International commercial markets for many recyclables are down, fiber markets are diving, and a decade of growth in recycling rates has plateaued or even dropped. Delegates at the meeting hope to reenergize the recycling movement, which has, after all, seen some success in the past years. For example, manufacturers are increasingly taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, and consumers are demanding goods with more recycled content. Nonetheless, the nation continues to produce and consume ever more stuff, and the notion that recycling doesn’t make a difference seems to be as persistent as Styrofoam.

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