Chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership
Cody Marshall got his start in the recycling industry when a love of being outside and an interest in environmental science put him in the right place at the right time. It took a little bit of luck, but the journey began in college at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Marshall took a job driving a box truck around campus, collecting recyclables, and soon made the most of every opportunity that came his way.
“While I was looking for water quality jobs, I came across opportunities to intern in a solid waste office in North Carolina,” Marshall says. “Because of the right people I met, I was able to get my resume in the right pile. … That really was the beginning of my recycling career—managing a fleet of trucks, collecting curbside, multifamily food waste—I just got a taste of a little bit of everything and really, really loved it.”
Marshall is chief community strategy officer at The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia. He leads the community engagement team, which is involved in packaging design, data and research and policy. His focus is operating all the grant funding done by the organization. “We work to deploy those grants and provide best management practices and technical assistance along the way,” Marshall says. “We watch the impact and … try to do a little bit better next time.”
He shares his journey through the recycling industry with Recycling Today as well as the challenges facing recyclers, new technology and the work The Recycling Partnership is doing with material recovery facilities (MRFs).
”The policy discussions are way more robust now than in the past.”
Recycling Today (RT): How do you see recycling technology evolving?
Cody Marshall (CM): There’s so much exciting technology that I think is going to really improve recycling. There are challenges in the MRF. … [G]ood quality material ends up in residue. So, the robotics and AI (artificial intelligence) systems and the machine-learning that’s happening is just so fantastic and will allow us to capture more material in an evolving waste stream. … It’s just so critical that we’re going to have to get more precise with our sorting. But then also that technology getting out the curb, getting to multifamily properties to try to identify where contamination is and give direct feedback to residents.
RT: What are some of the biggest barriers facing recyclers in communicating with consumers?
CM: We put no money behind how to recycle, and people don’t know what to do. … But when we have seen success, when local governments have the right resources, consumers do stay informed, and they do have quality material that gets captured and sent into the system and away from landfill.
RT: How have you seen the industry change over your career?
CM: The thing that hasn’t changed is local governments have major budget constraints to provide the right level of services broadly, and they never have enough people. … The thing that is evolving is how the industry has noticed the barriers and the challenges and how the private sector has come along to really partner with cities. The policy discussions are way more robust now than in the past.
RT: What are some projects in the works at The Recycling Partnership?
CM: We’re building out a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) coalition, and we’re going to be doing some research to understand how we can capture thermoforms better. Right now, [they’re] getting lost in the system and going to landfill, but there’s a real opportunity to recover [them].