U.S. EPA Seeks to Boost Recycling

AUSTIN, Texas, September 9, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration today launched a new campaign to help boost recycling of materials ranging from metals to plastics to paper. The initiative, which also aims to slash the generation of toxic chemicals, was announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the National Recycling Coalition's 21st Annual Congress and Exposition in Austin.


The EPA wants to boost nationwide recycling of items like these glass bottles and jars from 30 percent to 35 percent by 2005. (Photo Damon Hart-Davis/DHD Photo Gallery)
The EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge aims to meet or beat two goals by 2005: boosting the national recycling rate from 30 percent to at least 35 percent and curbing by 50 percent the generation of 30 harmful chemicals found in hazardous waste. To help meet the goals of the Challenge, the agency also announced 12 new projects that will test creative approaches to waste minimization, energy recovery, recycling and land revitalization.

"We are challenging all Americans to take a 'hands on' approach to helping conserve our precious natural resources," said Marianne Lamont Horinko, the EPA's assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response.

"EPA is asking Americans to adopt smart environmental practices, make smart environmental purchases, reuse more products, and recycle at least one pound of their household waste a day," Horinko continued. "The results of the Resource Conservation Challenge and the innovative projects will be less waste, more economic growth and greater energy savings and recovery."

The Resource Conservation Challenge includes 68 projects that the EPA selected for their flexibility, innovation and emphasis on public-private partnerships. All of the projects aim to reduce the use of raw materials, reuse waste materials to make new products or generate energy, and cut the generation of toxic wastes.


Recycling can reduce the amount of wastes sent to municipal landfills. (Photo by David Parsons, courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
For example, in one of the projects, the EPA is asking businesses and industry to join a "Waste Minimization Partnership Program" to help achieve the national goal of a 50 percent reduction of 30 harmful chemicals by 2005. These chemicals, such as lead, are among the most harmful to public health and the environment.

The five founding members of the partnership are American Video Glass, Corning Asahi, Dow Chemical Corp., International Truck and Engine, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing.

The EPA plans to establish partnerships and alliances with industry, states and environmental groups to help meet the Challenge's goals. The agency will provide training, tools and technology assistance for businesses, governments and citizen groups, and help get information about the initiative to the general population, particularly youth and minority groups, through outreach and assistance.


A biomass energy pilot project at the Fort Apache Timber Company on the White Mountain Apache Reservation is using mill and forest residues to produce electricity. (Photo by Steve Sargent, courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
In addition to the Resource Conservation Challenge, the EPA is also partnering with states, academia, nonprofit groups, industry representatives, tribes and local governments to test innovative ideas to make the agency's waste programs more efficient and effective.

The initial 12 projects demonstrate approaches to waste minimization, energy recovery, recycling and land revitalization that may be replicated across various industries, communities and regions. The projects range from making plastics from plant materials, to demonstrating the reuse potential of recycling residential building materials.

For example, one project will develop and solicit designs for reusable packaging for products purchased through the Internet. The EPA and McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, LLC, will spend about $50,000 to explore ways to eliminate waste from electronic commerce.

To support a phase out of arsenic based wood treatments, announced by the EPA in February, the EPA will fund a pilot project to develop methods of cleaning the equipment at wood preserving facilities to help the industry convert its factories from chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to less toxic chemicals.


These ceiling beams are made from recycled wood. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy/Craig Miller)
Two projects will look at ways to reuse existing wood projects. The North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention, North Carolina State University (NCSU), U.S. Forest Service, and Land of Sky Regional Council will partner to test ways to convert used wood pallets into new flooring products.

The University of Florida's Center for Construction and Environment will partner will Gainesville Regional Utilities and the city of Gainesville, Florida, to take apart a typical wood framed house, and design ways to reuse its materials in new neighborhood building projects. The EPA estimates that about 136 million tons of building related construction and demolition wastes are generated in the U.S. every year, of which 92 percent comes from renovations and demolition projects.

In San Francisco, California, Bay Area Rapid Transit will receive $35,000 to research and demonstrate ways to reduce waste and increase recycling by transit authorities. In New York City, INFORM, Inc. will explore how cell phones collected through charitable donation programs are used, and whether they are ultimately disposed of in a safe manner.


Biobased polymers can be used to make petroleum free plastics. (Photo by Warren Gretz, courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
The University of Colorado at Boulder and the city of Boulder will look at using composting technology to deal with the waste food generated by the university. The Biomass Energy Conversion Facility at Iowa State University will receive a grant to explore ways of manufacturing bio-based plastics, which could be made from waste food, as well as scrap wood and paper, yard wastes, and other organic wastes.

More information about these and the other funded waste reduction projects is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oswer/IWG.htm

More information about the Resource Conservation Challenge is available at: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/index.htm