JUNE 2008

EPA promotes increased paper recycling through partnership programs

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is determined to work with the pulp and paper industry to maximize recovery and recycling in America, says Maria Vickers, deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste (OSW).

“Paper recovery plays a prominent role under the EPA’s flagship program, the Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC), has underscored that,” she says. “(It) provides renewed urgency to EPA’s message of reducing, reusing and recycling valuable materials habitually discarded by American industry and the general public linking the importance of these activities to energy conservation and greenhouse gas reductions. I am sure that this is something that the public is becoming more and more educated about.”

Several years ago the OSW collaborated with the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) and other bodies to convene a national stakeholders meeting on paper recycling, which led to the identification of a number of issues and projects to increase overall paper recovery.

“We’d like to think that our work together over the years had a positive impact on paper recycling in this country,” says Vickers.

The EPA is working on initiatives to help the AF&PA achieve its new 60 percent paper recovery goal for 2012.

One is the development of its paper recycling website.

“The website is intended to be a one-stop-shop for all things related to paper recycling,” says Vickers. “We will have information for paper mills, teachers, students, recycling coordinators, building managers, environmental groups, public officials, and the general public. This website will be beta-tested by AF&PA and others over the next few weeks and should go on-line this summer.”

Another program is the partnership that is bringing together Georgia Pacific, CB Richards Ellis, Inc. (CBRE) and Harmon Associates to promote recycling.

“CBRE is the world’s largest commercial office management company (and) together with Georgia Pacific and Harmon,” says Vickers, “CBRE is planning to implement new office recycling programs at 1,431 facilities in 43 states. Each facility will do a waste audit; develop and implement a recycling plan; carry out regular monthly education; and measure and report their progress.

“We anticipate great things from this partnership,” she adds, “and we expect that the lessons we learn can be transferred to other building owners and operators throughout the country.”

A third initiative has led to the development of the EPA’s Office Carbon Footprint Calculator.

“This tool highlights the importance of paper recycling in an office setting and links recycling to greenhouse gas reductions,” says Vickers. “The calculator is available on the EPA website. It’s free and user friendly.”

She adds that bringing in more partners to work with EPA and AF&PA is essential to increase recycling rates.

“At the national level, EPA promotes partnership programs under the Resource Conservation Challenge,” says Vickers. “For example, the WasteWise Program, now in its thirteenth year, has attracted over 1500 partners across the country that are intent on reducing and recycling materials that would otherwise be waste. These partners - from small and large businesses, to communities, local and state governments, nonprofits and institutions of all kinds – have discovered that recycling is not only good for the environment, but it is also good for their bottom line.”