According to a study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the good news is that Americans are recycling more. The bad news is that it is not making the necessary difference in the economic or environmental change that the country needs.
What’s Increasing, What’s Decreasing and What Difference Does It Make?
The country’s recycling effort has been slowly but steadily increasing by less than 1 percent increments since 2010, but only for certain materials. Food waste, leather, certain non-ferrous metals (brass, gold, nickel, silver, tin, lead, zinc and copper), rubber, wood and yard trimmings are still creeping upward. Aluminum, ferrous metals (mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron and wrought iron), glass, paper and paperboard, plastics and textiles started to decline between 2015 and 2017.
This makes a difference because the materials that have been decreasing are the ones of major concern for the waste recycling industry. This issue has only been compounded by China’s decision to decline US waste for recycling and the lacking system currently run by the United States.
A Solution to the Problem?
The National Framework for Advancing the US Recycling System claims to have solid proposals and actions to turn the negative into a positive for a more economically and environmentally sound recycling program in four areas of concentration: promoting education and outreach, enhancing materials management infrastructure, strengthening secondary materials markets, and enhancing measurement. The following is a very brief summary of their intention.
Promoting Education and Outreach- Americans tend to think that everything that fits in the curbside recycle categories goes in the recycle bin. Just because an item is made of glass, plastic, paper or aluminum doesn’t mean that it can be recycled from the curb collection. We also clump all materials into one bin instead of separating them into the four major groups.
Educating the country is a good start to correcting the problem, especially if programs are brought to the attention of the youth. Demonstrating proper recycling practices in school assemblies and children’s network television will train the next generation. Fewer things are more motivational than an informed child holding a household to task. The more people who participate, the more others feel pressured to do the same, and proper recycling practices become the norm. Rates of acceptable recycling can only improve.
Enhancing Materials Management Infrastructure- Improving the current infrastructure of recycling waste must happen at a macro level in order to accommodate the changes being made at the micro level. It would create jobs and eliminate a single-stream system that reduces 50 percent of recycling into trash. It could also eliminate putting recycle signs on the bottom of non-recyclable items like pizza boxes.
Strengthening Secondary Materials Markets- It only makes sense to provide new markets for recycled products and expanding existing ones. It enables sustainability for businesses and the country, creates jobs, and increases the country’s economy.
Enhancing Measurement- With new systems must come new forms of evaluation to determine if the system is working, where improvements can be made, what new sectors it can create, and what actions are counterproductive or obsolete.
We can help you to participate in a more stable future for everyone! Contact us at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources if you have any questions about recycling.