A new national goal for recycling

Rural America has a long standing commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship and the EPA is looking to build on that work with a renewed focus on recycling.

When the Environmental Protection Agency was founded 50 years ago, the national recycling rate was below 10 percent. This year, at the 3rd annual America Recycles Summit, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a new goal.

“We had a steep increase in recycling rates in the 1990s that brought the rate up to the mid-30 percent range, but for the last twenty years or so, the recycling rate has remained mostly flat,” according to Wheeler. “That’s why I’m excited to announce the first ever National Recycling Goal to increase the national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030.”

Agriculture uses around 800 million pounds of plastic each year, for silage wraps, horticulture films, chemical containers, and more. The agency has released a new policy framework to help farmers and consumers increase recycling.

“The draft National Recycling Strategy focuses on three key objectives,” he states. “First, reducing contamination in the recycling stream. This helps ensure that clean recyclable materials can be processed and made into new products.”

Wheeler also says that investments are needed to improve access to recycling, as well as more markets for newly created products.

“We can achieve this through improvements in our processing system. We need to invest in new equipment upgrades and expand access to curbside recycling for more Americans, and three, strengthening markets for recycled materials,” he adds. “This will help ensure manufactures make more products using recycled materials and bolster public demand.”

The Recycling Summit also included a virtual innovation fair, highlighting new technologies from 42 exhibitors and EPA is calling on more companies to take the “America Recycles Pledge.”

He explains, “In 2018, we held the first ever America Recycles Day Summit with 45 stakeholders signing the America Recycles Pledge. Today, over 290 organizations have signed the pledge to address challenges facing our recycling system and to identify solutions.”

Food companies like McDonald’s, Nestle, and Unilever have signed onto the pledge, as well as the Dow Chemical Company.