By Andrew Wheeler
U.S. EPA Administrator
America has a long-standing commitment to conservation and stewardship. As a nation, we are blessed with abundant resources; and we are all looking for ways to maximize the inherent value of those resources so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them for many years to come.
We also understand that recycling is one of the most widely available ways for each and every one of us to have a long-term impact on the environment. From a child in pre-school, to a mom in a small town, to urbanites in the big cities, to Fortune 500 companies, we can all do our part to conserve valuable materials and keep them from filling up our Nation’s landfills.
When EPA was established in 1970, the national recycling rate was less than 10 percent. In 1980, the first curbside recycling program was launched in Woodbury, New Jersey. And today, recycling programs can be found in communities big and small across the country, and the national recycling rate has grown to more than 35 percent.
Under President Trump, we have made it a priority to engage with stakeholders and work together to address environmental challenges such as recycling. In doing so, we can reduce the roughly $9 billion of materials Americans throw away each year.
As much as we have increased the amount we recycle, there is much room to grow. That is why last year at EPA, we held our first America Recycles Summit, which brought together stakeholders from across the recycling system to sign the America Recycles Pledge. Signatories of the Pledge are committed to working with EPA in identifying solutions to improve the nation’s recycling system.
EPA has brought some of the most innovative, forward thinking organizations to the table to solve some key challenges in the recycling system. In addition to keeping valuable materials out of landfills, recycling is an important economic driver that provides more than 757,000 jobs and $36.6 billion in wages. Together we are working to turn billions of dollars of waste into products that can drive our economy and protect our environment.
Our role at EPA has always been to help develop best practices, provide data the public needs to monitor their recycling efforts, and incentivize action through our programs. But we need to work together with our partners to move beyond our current recycling rate of 35 percent and really make a positive impact on recycling in the United States.
I’m pleased to say that over the past year, through our coordinated efforts we’ve taken many important steps to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfills. We are working closely with our government partners and private companies to reduce the amount of food waste across the country; our list of signatories to the recycling pledge has more than tripled from 45 to more than 160; and we have a wealth of efforts underway to enhance public education and outreach, increase our investment in recycling infrastructure, develop markets for recycled materials, and improve measurement and data collection.
On this America Recycles Day, I challenge you to do your part, by taking steps to reduce the amount of food we waste, the amount of garbage we put in the trash, and the amount of contaminated materials that end up in the recycle bins. Other ways to improve on our nation’s recycling challenges is to learn more about recycling in your community; to look for opportunities to recycle beyond the bin, such as used electronics drop-off events or store collection bins; and to buy American-made products made with recycled content.
Together we can build a stronger, more resilient recycling system that provides needed materials to fuel our economy, creates jobs, and most importantly conserves our precious natural resources while also protecting our environment.
About the author: Andrew Wheeler is the U.S. EPA Administrator. The U.S. Senate confirmed him as the fifteenth Administrator of the agency on February 28, 2019. President Donald J. Trump announced his appointment as the acting EPA Administrator on July 5, 2018. Wheeler was previously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the EPA Deputy Administrator on April 12, 2018. Read more.