Report Release: Transforming Trash in Urban America

May 10, 2013 -- Partnership for Working Families

Transforming the way local governments manage trash promises to improve conditions in many cities by turning bad jobs into good jobs, creating new employment, decreasing pollution, and lowering costs. Cities can move toward zero waste and capture a range of worker, community, and environmental benefits by introducing new systems for managing trash.

Some cities are adopting a new approach toward recycling that delivers a range of public benefits.  Sustainable recycling combines robust recycling programs with high road job quality and economic development policies.  Together the elements of sustainable recycling create trash management systems that fight climate change, create family-sustaining jobs, and support strong local economies.  This approach contrasts with what exists in many cities, where there are low recycling rates and little attention is paid to the environment, workers, or communities.

This report proves that sustainable recycling can be achieved in American cities.  Together these local transformations will deliver large-scale benefits for the environment, workers, communities, and the economy.  Our in-depth research and interviews with city staff revealed how 37 major cities manage trash and recycling.  This research revealed low recycling rates, exploited workers, and an unaccountable industry.  Most importantly this research identifies a wealth of opportunities to create low-impact, cost effective and sustainable recycling systems in every region of the country.

Transforming Trash in Urban America includes detailed case studies on the trash and recycling systems in Seattle, Milwaukee, Oakland, New York, and Minneapolis.  The report is also accompanied by an online appendix that contains profiles of each of the cities researched for this project.  

To learn more about this project and our Transforming Trash campaign please contact us at 

Read the report here: Transforming Trash in Urban America