America Recycles!

By Suzanne Rudzinski

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, recycling became more mainstream in America. Here in Washington, DC you’ll find separate bins for your recycling next to waste bins. Major manufacturers and other leading manufacturers are recycling tons of materials annually because it saves them money. Glass manufacturers rely on a steady supply of recycled crushed glass in their production processes, since it costs less than raw materials and melts at a lower temperature, which saves energy and prolongs furnace life. 90 percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers; it can also be used in kitchen tiles, counter tops, and wall insulation. So recycling isn’t just fashionable for treehuggers or hippies; it’s a practical, business-savvy activity that every American and American business can do.

American recycling has come a long way. It used to be something we taught our kids. When my kids were in preschool, I showed their classes how carpet can be made from recycled bottles, or how aluminum cans are crushed into recyclable blocks. Today, kids are teaching us to think about recycling more. You may overhear kids quizzically ask their parents, “Why isn’t there recycling here? Where do I put this bottle?” That little statement is representative of the millennial generation’s outlook; young people expect recycling options. They’re choosing to build a better tomorrow by recycling the things we use today.

Rather than throwing away old electronics, we can recycle them. Through 3rd-party certified recyclers, we can help create safe domestic recycling jobs while keeping precious metals and materials in our own country. Innovative processes and business models await discovery in America’s effort to grow our economy and become less dependent on costly imports. Think about it. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. For every ounce of gold we recycle, it’s one less ounce of gold we have to import or mine domestically.

So, on this America Recycles Day, consider what you can do to recycle more. It can be as easy asking your local trash company for curbside recycling, moving your old electronics from a box to a local recycler, or gathering those old flip phones you have lying around and donating them to charities. Whatever steps you’ll take, you’ll be taking steps that help make America a cleaner, healthier, more economically competitive country.

For more information, check out tips on what you can do to recycle and EPA’s educational resources. EPA supports Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling materials and considers true sustainability as next-generation pathway beyond recycling.

About the author: Suzanne Rudzinski is the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. The Office is responsible for managing EPA’s programs governing hazardous and solid wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. She is the proud mother of three environmentally-conscious sons.

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