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The US Adopts a National Recycling Strategy

According to the Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency today launched a new nationwide recycling plan, the agency’s first such such pledge.

It’s a plan to get the United States to recycle at least half of its municipal garbage by the end of the decade. That’s a significant increase, given that the US recycling rate has been declining since 2015, with just around 32% of total municipal garbage recycled in 2018 (the most recent year for which EPA data is available).

The EPA’s recycling plans are only the first in a “series” of documents the agency expects to produce in the coming months to promote a “circular economy,” or one in which materials are recovered and reused to create new goods rather than ending up in landfills. It’s a tacit admission that recycling alone won’t make a significant dent in the world’s waste problems.

In 2018, China stopped accepting much of our so-called recyclable rubbish, including post-consumer plastic, exposing flaws in America’s recycling system. Some municipal recycling programs were compelled to stop or reduce their services, resulting in more waste being transferred to landfills and incinerators. The programs that survived the global shock are still recuperating, on top of needing to adjust to new consumer behaviors exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Until recently, efforts to remedy the problem have been impeded by a lack of nationwide recycling policy. The EPA has a number of strategies in mind to reach its new recycling target. For starters, the United States will need to improve its collection of recyclable items. The rise in internet shopping has shifted the distribution of packaging trash. Because of the popularity of home delivery, there is less cardboard coming from shopping malls and grocery shops. According to experts, cardboard from people’s homes is dirtier than rubbish from merchants, which has caused challenges for recycling organizations.

Cardboard or plastic that has been contaminated with food or other materials is frequently unable to be recycled. As a result, the EPA plans to increase public outreach and education to guarantee that more of the waste individuals toss away is recycled.

The EPA also seeks to create new markets for recycled products so that recycling becomes profitable for businesses. That implies new rules or financial incentives to increase demand for recycled materials might be on the way. A “Demand Challenge partnership program,” for example, is included in the strategy plan, which would reward firms that use more recycled materials in their goods. The EPA has indicated that it may finally “examine” ratification of the Basel Convention, a 1989 international pact aimed at curbing the flow of e-waste and other hazardous garbage from affluent to low-income countries.

According to the EPA, the new approach is also the first time the agency’s recycling programs would draw the links between trash, environmental injustice, and the climate issue. Protests against a landfill erected in a mostly Black town in North Carolina in the 1980s gave birth to the current environmental justice movement, which works to prevent pollution from disproportionately affecting low-income areas and communities of color.

Cardboard or plastic that has been contaminated with food or other materials is frequently unable to be recycled. As a result, the EPA plans to increase public outreach and education to guarantee that more of the waste individuals toss away is recycled.

The EPA also seeks to create new markets for recycled products so that recycling becomes profitable for businesses. That implies new rules or financial incentives to increase demand for recycled materials might be on the way. A “Demand Challenge partnership program,” for example, is included in the strategy plan, which would reward firms that use more recycled materials in their goods. The EPA has indicated that it may finally “examine” ratification of the Basel Convention, a 1989 international pact aimed at curbing the flow of e-waste and other hazardous garbage from affluent to low-income countries.

Plastic pollution has recently gotten a lot of attention, thanks to a growing body of data that shows plastics are piling up in seas, sea life, and even humans. Plastics are also linked to a different environmental issue: global warming. They’re created from fossil fuels, and as the cost of renewable energy rises, oil and gas corporations are eager to expand their plastics business.

The plastics sector has a long history of advocating recycling as a waste-reduction strategy. However, only around 9% of all plastic garbage has ever been recycled in actuality. Some environmentalists and campaigners are also worried that expanding the recycled plastic business may increase demand for new plastics. This is because the quality of materials diminishes with each reuse, which is why recycled plastic goods are frequently reinforced with new plastic.

Stopping the accumulation of plastic and other waste involves structural changes in how we use things, not just how we dispose of them at the end of their useful lives. That’s why the EPA says it’s aiming toward a circular economy, which considers a product’s full lifespan. To achieve a circular economy, less raw materials will be used, goods will last longer and consume fewer resources will be designed, and rules and infrastructure will be in place to effectively collect objects for reuse.

Essentially, a concentrated effort is required to prevent the production of garbage in the first place.

Joe Wallace
Joe Wallace
Joe Wallace is a reporter with over two decades of experience, writing about the latest and greatest technology news. With the most experience on TheOptic team, Joe strives to help highlight the most exciting developments in the technology world, as well as bring you the latest updates on new and developing technologies from around the world.
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