JANUARY 2012

EPA highlights recycling efforts

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing the progress made in recycling our country’s waste and the work yet to be done.

EPA estimates that Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal waste in 2010, of which approximately 34 percent was recycled or composted. While this represents progress, it also shows that there is great opportunity for our nation to better manage natural resources that are too often disposed of in landfills. Recycling and other sustainable management practices protect our environment and strengthen our economy.

The United States disposes enough trash each day to fill 50,000 garbage trucks with 18,000 lbs. of trash in each. By reducing, reusing and recycling, the United States can put resources back into productive use, rather than disposing of them. Recycling just 1 cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours. Recycling is not the only avenue. Adopting sustainable materials management practices can help minimize waste and help our country conserve energy.

Sustainable materials management examines the life cycle of materials and products to identify opportunities to consume fewer natural resources, decrease the waste going to landfills, and create economic opportunities. There are a wide variety of sustainable materials management practices, including designing products that use fewer toxic constituents, reusing products, composting organic materials and recycling.

EPA and other federal agencies are not only encouraging Americans to adopt sustainable materials management practices, the federal government is leading by example. In July, a federal task force released a National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship – a strategy for the responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling that will promote the burgeoning electronics recycling market and jobs of the future here at home. Additionally, through the Federal Green Challenge, EPA has challenged other federal agencies to reduce their own environmental impact through more sustainable practices by pledging a reduction goal of at least five percent per year in two of six focus areas: waste, electronics, purchasing, energy, water and transportation.