EPA Weighs Options to Stimulate Recycling Rates

Date: November 27, 2009

Source: News Room

The US EPA is considering financial incentives to address the stagnation of municipal recycling rates including measures in the Senate climate change bill and assisting communities to adopt more sustainable funding mechanisms for their programs. Waste chief Mathy Stanislaus told attendees of the annual meeting of the Association of State & Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) on Oct. 29 that he wants to explore ways to increase the national rate beyond its current level of 30 percent. Recycling has become a victim of its own success in that most urban areas are now served by programs with fewer areas in need of new programs. The recent recession hasn't helped either causing strains on municipal and state budgets that have forced officials to opt out of services considered non-essential, like recycling.

There are several ways EPA could increase recycling, including provisions in the Kerry-Boxer climate bill that promote product stewardship, discourage unsustainable ways of financing recycling and developing more consistent metrics to measure the effectiveness of various recycling initiatives.

The Kerry-Boxer bill includes language that directs the EPA to establish a state recycling programs in which not less than one-quarter of funds would "be used exclusively to support recycling purposes and associated source reduction purposes," including incentives for recycling-related technology that reduces or avoids greenhouse gas emissions, increases collection rates, and improves the quality of recyclable material that is separated from regular waste.

Recycling is increasingly cited as an important element in addressing climate change. A white paper released by the Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response in September examined the connection between the effects of solid waste and land use management and climate change, noting that various recycling activities, including composting, recycling municipal solid waste and reusing construction and demolition debris, were among the activities with the greatest carbon dioxide reductions.

Industry worries that EPA involvement in the recycling market might shift costs to other entities and constitute a new tax on companies. Rather, some conservative groups believe that EPA should undertake programs that encourage the use of recycled materials such as the Clinton-era executive order mandating the use of recycled paper by government agencies and require that recycled construction and demolition waste is used in constructing federal buildings.

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