America Recycles Day

The Economic Power of Recycling: Sustainable Materials Management

By Mathy Stanislaus

On America Recycles Day, we’re taking a look back over the last 40 years since the passage of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and how we’ve worked to protect the health of our country’s communities through resource conservation. Here at EPA, recycling is a key element of Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles. SMM represents a global shift in the use of natural resources and environmental protection. America’s recycling and reuse activities accounted for 757,000 jobs, produced $36.6 billion in wages and generated $6.7 billion in tax revenues in 2007, based on the most recent census data. As we continue to reduce, reuse and recycle, we are evolving our resource conservation efforts to use materials in the most productive way, with an emphasis on using less and advancing a circular economy.

Today we celebrate our successes in sustainable materials management. The national recycling rate has more than quadrupled from 7 to 34 percent, and the slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has become a staple of American life. Recycling bins are now common in our homes, schools and workplaces; restaurants are composting their food waste and businesses are working with communities to offer consumers reuse and recycling opportunities.

In 2001, to encourage the development of an economic market for recycling, we supported the creation of a national Recycling Economic Information (REI) Project and the related REI
report. The REI report was a groundbreaking national study demonstrating the economic value of recycling and reuse to the U.S. economy. Compiled through a cooperative agreement with the National Recycling Coalition, the study confirmed what many have known for decades: there are significant economic benefits associated with recycling.

That is why I am excited to announce the release of the 2016 REI Report. This report includes updated information about recycling jobs, wages, and tax revenue. We have found that recycling and reuse of materials creates jobs while also generating local and state tax revenues. According to the latest Census data available, in 2007 recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for:
•

  • 757,000 jobs;
  • $36.6 billion in wages; and
  • •$6.7 billion in tax revenues.

These are enough recycling jobs to employ more than the entire population of the city of Seattle, Washington. To break down those numbers a little more, every 1,000 U.S. tons of recyclable materials generates:
•

  • 1.57 jobs;
  • •$76,030 in wages; and
  • •$14,101 in tax revenues.

Along with the new economic impacts, the 2016 REI report used an updated analytical framework and a new waste input-output methodology, which focused on the life cycle of materials and defining recycling. These refinements offered significant improvements over the 2001 REI study in terms of a better definition of recycling and more precise data. This new methodology will help decision makers and researchers more accurately estimate the economic benefits of recycling and create a foundation upon which additional studies can be built.

In addition to the economic benefits, we must recognize the major environmental benefits of recycling and SMM as a whole. Recycling reduces pollution and greenhouse gases, while generating positive economic benefits. For example, in 2014, 89 million tons of municipal solid waste were recycled and composted. That’s equivalent to removing the carbon dioxide emissions of 38 million passenger cars from the road annually. How our society uses materials is fundamental to our economic and environmental future. Global competition for our limited resources will only intensify as the world population and economies grow. A more productive and less impactful use of materials will help our society remain economically competitive, contribute to our prosperity and protect the environment in a resource-constrained future. We want to make sure we have sufficient resources to meet not only today’s needs, but those of the future as well. As we celebrate our nation’s commitment to recycling our materials today, let’s shoot for 40 more years of continuing to sustainably conserve and manage our resources.

To read the REI Report, visit: https://www.epa.gov/smm/recycling-economic-information-rei-report

To read the President’s Proclamation: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/11/14/presidential-proclamation-america-recycles-day-2016

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Recycling Saves Resources and Creates Green Jobs

By Mathy Stanislaus

Recycling is an important and significant aspect of a material’s lifecycle. It helps reduce the use of raw materials in the manufacturing sector and conserves resources like timber, water and minerals. Over the next 15 years, global demand for materials is predicted to rise more than 35 percent. This makes the efficient use of natural resources vital for economic development. In an effort to promote resource conservation across the globe, leaders from the world’s largest economies formed The Alliance for Resource Efficiency.

The Alliance is an international initiative dedicated to developing new strategies for environmental conservation in ways that promote sustainable management of our natural resources. In the United States, we call this sustainable materials management, or SMM. SMM encourages consumers, businesses and communities to consider the entire lifecycle of the materials we use – from extraction or harvest of materials and food (e.g., mining, forestry, and agriculture), to production and transport of goods, provision of services, reuse of materials, and, if necessary, disposal. Considering the full lifecycle of a product allows us to minimize environmental impacts as we use and manage material resources flowing through the economy.

In the last several decades, through improved materials management practices, we have successfully raised the national recycling rate to 34%, reducing 186 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. That rate represents 87 million tons of material that were recycled or composted. Every 10,000 metric tons of recyclables generates 37 jobs, which equates to $1.1 million in wages and $330,000 in tax revenues . By working together consumers, businesses and communities can build on this success.

Consumers

Consider buying used clothing and building materials at reuse centers and consignment shops – they can be just as durable as a new product and save you money. Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools and electronics, try selling or donating them. This not only reduces waste, but it also benefits the community. What’s more, donating used items prevents goods from ending up in landfills and may create a tax benefit. Also, look for products with less packaging. The money manufacturers save by using less packaging is often passed down to you.

Businesses

Businesses can utilize lifecycle analysis to make better decisions during product design, such as using fewer toxics and more materials that have a longer, useful life. To help conserve resources, businesses can practice careful industrial and product design that minimizes the use of virgin materials and reuses them in an effort to reduce environmental impacts.

Companies can establish policies that support using and purchasing recycled products and materials. By expanding workplace recycling programs to include all types of paper, businesses can reduce paper waste. Installing built-in recycling centers and receptacles throughout buildings can encourage employees to rethink how they dispose of their wastes.

Communities

Communities can make efforts to encourage and collaborate with both businesses and consumers. This can help ensure that materials are used more efficiently and effectively. Government organizations can also begin to create awareness for the environmental consequences of our actions when using materials and purchasing products.

Local governments have a central role in increasing recycling in their communities, as they are responsible for implementing effective materials management strategies in their areas. They can do their part to make recycling a priority by ensuring residents are aware of regulation and policies that simplify recycling in their homes.

Ongoing Efforts

Next spring, we will host an event on sustainable supply chains with a focus on the automotive sector. The workshop will focus on identifying and sharing best practices and successes that are transferrable to other industries.

This event, and many other promising efforts to come, brings us closer to advancing SMM and combating climate change both domestically and internationally. I am proud and excited to be a part of a strategic initiative that will help the United States achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Auraria Campus Celebrates America Recycles Day

By Virginia Till

My school, the University of Colorado Denver, is part of the Auraria Higher Education Center. At Auraria, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty. In fact, we enjoy it. As part of our participation in the EPA-led Food Recovery Challenge, and in celebration of America Recycles Day, we did the first-ever waste audit of the Tivoli Student Union.
 

Americans tossed out more than 36 million tons of food in 2011, and nearly all of it ended up in landfills or incinerators. The Food Recovery Challenge asks participants to reduce as much of their food waste as possible – saving money, helping communities, and protecting the environment.
 

With EPA-supplied bench scales, we weighed 26 bags of compost, recycle, and landfill materials gathered from the Tivoli’s 3-bin collection stations. This was then resorted to determine potential for improvement.

By looking at how we were recycling, we learned that we’d do a lot better by sorting properly. Knowing this will help Auraria determine strategies for improving recyling in the Tivoli Student Union and reduce the amount of waste sent to local landfills. It was fun getting our hands dirty and finding out how the campus can improve its waste management. How much of your food and money are you literally throwing away?

For more information:
http://www.epa.gov/smm/foodrecovery/
http://americarecyclesday.org/

About the author: Virginia Till is a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, pursuing a master’s in integrated sciences. She studies and works on sustainable building operations and is a Recycling Specialist for EPA Region 8 in Denver.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Jack Johnson Joins EPA in Celebrating America Recycles Day at #WeRecycle

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and musician Jack Johnson

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and musician Jack Johnson

 

Some of you may not know this, but before focusing on music, award-winning artist Jack Johnson was a professional surfer. He credits his Hawaiian upbringing and connecting with nature as motivations for why he teaches kids about sustainability, whether he’s on tour or just at home.  And it’s why he’s joining me to commemorate America Recycles Day this year.

Through the work of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, Jack serves his community through supporting waste reduction, recycling, and other sustainable practices at local schools. He believes teaching kids the source of the products they use and the food they eat strengthens their connection with nature, improves their overall health, and teaches them to use energy more efficiently.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle with Little Free Libraries

By Ellie Kanipe

With America Recycles Day around the corner on November 15th, we’re sharing how communities are reducing waste and conserving resources. Little Free Libraries are one way my community is making a difference – not only by helping the environment by keeping books out of landfills, but by connecting neighbors and building an even greater sense of community.

Earlier this fall, my husband and I attended a 6-month anniversary celebration of a Little Free Library in our Del Ray, VA neighborhood outside of Washington, DC. The Little Free Library of Windsor and Dewitt had festive decorations and yummy treats; crafts for kids; a garden tour where we saw lots of monarch caterpillars; and, of course, books, books, and more books! It was delightful – we gave a book, left with a few books, met new neighbors, and learned about other cool green happenings in our community, like an Upcycle Creative Reuse Center.

Del Ray has three Little Free Libraries and my husband and I love them! Not only do they foster community by bringing people together to share their love of reading, they provide the service of reusing/recycling books. Here’s how it works:

  • The library itself is simply a small, weather-proof container that can hold books.
  • Stewards, often with community support, build or purchase a library and put it in their yard (check out some examples here).
  • The library stewards make it official by becoming a member of the Little Free Library global network.
  • The stewards start the process by putting their own used books in the library.
  • People in the community stop by and leave a book and/or take a book.

Healthier-NeighborhoodsELLE#

What are you and your community doing to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Does your community have a Little Free Library, or other sharing libraries for things like tools and seeds? On Wednesday, November 13 at 12:30 p.m. EST, join a conversation on Twitter about what you and your community are doing. You can participate by following @ EPAlive and the #AskEPA hashtag on Twitter. If you don’t use Twitter, you can still watch the discussion at @EPAlive and #AskEPA. We look forward to chatting with you!

About the author: Ellie Kanipe lives in Del Ray, Virginia, and works for the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery on communications. She loves her community in Del Ray – the people, its walkability, and the neighborhood’s frozen custard shop.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Let’s Celebrate America Recycles Day Together!

 

America Recycles Day

 America Recycles Day is November 15, and we want to celebrate with you. On Wednesday, November 13, at 12:30 p.m. EST, join us on Twitter to talk about what you and your community are doing to help reduce waste and conserve resources. 

Experts from our Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response will be with us to listen to your ideas and answer your questions. Be ready to share what you and your community are doing to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Does your community have curbside recycling? Are you creatively reusing stuff? What’s your best thrift shop or garage sale find? Perhaps the kids in your community are starting environment clubs. Or has your community created a sharing library for things like tools, seeds, and more?

You can participate on November 13 at 12:30 p.m. EST by following @EPAlive and the #AskEPA hashtag on Twitter. If you don’t use Twitter, you can still watch the discussion at @EPAlive and #AskEPA. We look forward to chatting with you!

About the author: Ellie Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She is inspired by cool people doing cool green things.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating America Recycles Day by Not Wasting Food!

By Sarah Dominguez

Yesterday I opened up the produce drawer in my fridge to put away some apples. Lying inside were two wilted heads of lettuce and a rotting zucchini. Thankfully, we have curbside compost collection in the Bay Area, so I made a mental note to remind my roommate to put inedible food in the compost bin.

Later that day at work, preparing for America Recycles Day on November 15th, I realized that my conversation with my roommate shouldn’t be just about the correct bin to use, but also about preventing the food from being wasted in the first place. That lettuce and zucchini could have been a delicious salad. Before I came to the EPA, I had a vague idea that I shouldn’t waste food. But now every time I throw out food I don’t just see dollar signs- I see the wasted water, energy and methane produced by food waste.

This year for America Recycles Day, we’re focusing on wasted food and the many ways it can be avoided, especially through donation to those in need. We are not talking about wilting vegetables when we mention donation, but instead fresh, safe to eat food that is donated before it expires. There will be food donation focused events across the country:

  • In Wilmington, Delaware, the grocer ShopRite is meeting with their partners at the Delaware Food Bank to donate food they must take off their shelves, but that is edible and wholesome.
  • In Washington State, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is encouraging attendees of their 4th Annual Recycling Extravaganza to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
  • The University of Texas, Arlington is celebrating America Recycles Day with a Campus Sustainability Food Drive. Their event is helping to spread awareness about wasted food and food insecurity.

For my roommate, it was too late to donate his vegetables (but not too late to feed the soil through composting). But if I share with him the implications of wasted food and strategies to reduce it (like meal planning, proper storage or recipe creativity), next time he can avoid tossing a head of lettuce and maybe make dinner for me at the same time.

About the author: Sarah Dominguez is a University of Southern California Masters Fellow in EPA’s San Francisco Office. She works on the Sustainable Materials Management Program’s Food Recovery Challenge. In her Urban Planning program at USC, she studies sustainable land use and environmental justice focusing on the built environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

America Recycles Day

By Felicia Chou

There is this beaten up, raggedy Garbage Gremlin costume we wear to events or school talks every year to encourage people of all ages to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The crusty, mold-green fur reeks of decades’ worth of sweat and tears from the EPA employees that have braved sweltering heat and freezing cold to don the costume for the sake of environmental outreach. Thankfully, the internet was invented so we wouldn’t have to rely on a communications prop that I personally wouldn’t touch without a ten-foot-pole and a hazmat suit. Our new-and-improved What You Can Do site offers great consumer tips and resources on Going Green, and doesn’t smell like last summer’s old sneakers. And what better time to explore what you can do to help our environment than today, America Recycles Day?

Regardless of whether you’re at home, at school, at work, or on the go, there are all kinds of things you can do to make every day America Recycles Day. With hand-picked tips organized by season and subject, helpful resources from buying green to greenscaping, and a section dedicated to things around the house you might not expect to recycle, we’re working to make it easier for everyone to do their part to make a difference.

So when you’re wondering about where to recycle your old electronics, what to do with all the leftover food from your holiday party, or how to set up a recycling program in your community, you won’t have to chase down the Garbage Gremlin to find out. And on behalf of all the dedicated public servants who have had to wear the suit, we thank you.

About the Author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She has avoided wearing costumes of any kind ever since her mother made her dress up as an oversized lady bug for Halloween in 7th grade.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: How do you recycle?

We put cans and bottle out for curbside recycling. We take electronics to a collection center. Kids collect newspapers to raise money for school projects. Share what you do. November 15 is America Recycles Day.

How do you recycle?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.