Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Pacific Southwest Waste Program

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Buy Recycled

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Adobe Reader.

Despite progress in recycling, Americans are still generating too much waste. Every day, on average, each person throws away over four pounds of material. These discards burden both the environment and our economy.

But even recycling, which adds major economic and environmental benefits, has economic and environmental costs. The best approach to our solid waste challenge is to cut the creation of waste in the first place.


Reduce

The United States is generating more waste now than ever before and that's why reducing waste - also known as waste prevention and source reduction - is important. From 1960 to 1997, total U.S. Municipal Solid Waste, commonly referred to as trash or garbage, increased 146.5%, while per capita generation increased almost 63%, from 2.7 to 4.4 pounds per person per day. The per capita municipal solid waste generation rate in the United States is higher than European countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom which each generate around two to three pounds per person per day.

What is source reduction?

EPA defines source reduction (also known as waste prevention) as activities designed to reduce the volume or toxicity of waste generated, including the design and manufacture of products with minimum toxic content, minimum volume of material, and/or a longer useful life. An example of source reduction is bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store.

Some waste reduction tips....

For Consumers For Businesses/Organizations
Buy only what you need Join EPA's free WasteWise Program
Buy reusable or refillable products Reduce office paper waste by implementing a formal policy to double-side all draft reports, and by making training manuals and personnel information available electronically.
Buy in bulk and/or economy sizes. Avoid single-serving sizes. Improve product design to use less materials.
Buy products with less packaging Reduce all forms of packaging waste:
  • Redesign packaging to eliminate excess material while maintaining strength.
  • Work with customers to design and implement a packaging return program.
  • Switch to reusable transport containers.
  • Purchase products in bulk.
Bring your own bag Keep mailing lists current.

Do federal agencies have to reduce waste?

Yes. Executive Order 13101 (PDF), "Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition," requires all federal agencies to promote cost-effective waste prevention in all of its facilities.

What is EPA doing to promote waste reduction?

EPA National Programs/Projects

  • Pay-As-You-Throw (or unit pricing/variable-rate pricing) is a system where households pay for garbage collection by the amount of trash collected rather than a flat fee. Households save money by throwing away less garbage and recycling. (Detailed information is available in the report Measuring Source Reduction: Pay as You throw/Variable Rates as an Example (PDF) (18 pp, 399K).
  • WasteWise is a voluntary EPA program that helps businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations save money by reducing their garbage and recycling.
  • Climate Change and Waste is an EPA program that encourages people to reduce waste in order to help slow global warming.

How can I get additional information?

Web Sites

Contacts

EPA Region 9 Solid Waste Program

California
Office of Public Affairs, (ombudsman@calrecycle.ca.gov)
CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery)
Phone: (916) 341-6586

Nevada
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (775) 687 - 9385

Arizona
Joseph B. Shaw, (JS15@azdeq.gov)
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (602) 771-5613

Hawaii
Jennifer Tosaki, (Jtosaki@eha.health.state.hi.us)
Department of Health, Solid & Hazardous Waste Section
Phone: (808) 586-4226

Publications

To order the above documents call the RCRA Hotline at (800) 424-9346 or order online through EPA's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.

Top of page


Reuse

What is reuse?

Reuse is using a product or item in its original form more than once (e.g., reusing a mug instead of using a disposable cup).

Some Tips for Reuse

For Consumers For Businesses/Organizations
Take a reusable cloth bag to the grocery store. Create a "reuse center" in your building where old office supplies, books, magazines, etc. can be reused.
Take your own mug to the coffee shop instead of getting a disposable cup there. Buy rechargeable toner cartridges so that they can be reused and use paper that has already been printed on one side in your printer and copy machine.
Donate old clothes and miscellaneous items to a shelter or charity instead of throwing them away. Donate unwanted equipment, furniture, and supplies to nonprofit organizations or schools.
Have a garage sale. Repair, refurbish, and sell or donate used furniture. Support construction from reused building materials and deconstruction/reuse, rather than demolition.

What is EPA doing to promote reuse?

EPA National Programs/Projects

  • WasteWise is a voluntary program that helps businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations save money by reducing their garbage.

  • The Reuse Development Organization Exiting EPA (disclaimer), Inc. (ReDO), is a non-profit organization whose mission is "to promote reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials. EPA provided grant funding to ReDO to support education, training, and outreach initiatives.

How can I get additional information?

Web sites

Many links in this section exit EPA. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

Contacts

EPA Region 9 Solid Waste Program

California
Office of Public Affairs, (ombudsman@calrecycle.ca.gov)
CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery)
Phone: (916) 341-6586

Nevada
Southern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Nicole Goehring, (ngoehring@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (702) 486-2850 x225

Northern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Jasmine Vittori, (jvittori@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (775) 687-9466

Arizona
Joseph B. Shaw, (JS15@azdeq.gov)
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (602) 771-5613

Hawaii
Jennifer Tosaki, (Jtosaki@eha.health.state.hi.us)
Department of Health, Solid & Hazardous Waste Section
Phone: (808) 586-4226

Publications

  • Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Composting Options: Lessons from 30 Communities, EPA530-R-92-015. (To order this document call the RCRA Hotline at 800-424-9346.)
  • EPA provided funding for the following publications:
    • Creating Wealth from Everyday Items
    • Weaving Textile Reuse into Waste Reduction
    • Reuse Operations: Community Development through Redistribution of Used Goods
    • Sustaining Businesses & Jobs Through Pallet Repair & Reuse
    • Plug into Electronics Reuse
  • To order the above documents please contact:

Top of page


Recycling

In 1997, EPA set a national recycling goal of 35% by the year 2005. Americans recycled (including composting) 27% of municipal solid waste, or garbage, in 1996.

What is recycling?

Recycling (including composting) means separating, collecting, processing, marketing, and ultimately using a material that would otherwise have been thrown away. This morning's newspaper can be recycled for another morning's news or other paper products. Carpet and clothing can be made from recycled soda bottles.

Quality products and packaging are being made from recycled materials that have been recovered from the waste stream. We can all promote recycling by buying and using recycled products.

Some of the Benefits of Recycling...

  • Recycling reduces air and water pollution/emissions associated with landfilling and incineration.
  • Recycling conserves our natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals because it reduces the need for raw materials.
  • Recycling saves energy Exiting EPA (disclaimer) (National Resources Defense Council (NRDC))
  • Recycling decreases emissions Exiting EPA (disclaimer) (NRDC) of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

For additional information about the benefits of recycling view the following publications:

What can I recycle?

Each local recycling program is designed to handle specific materials. Commonly recycled materials include:

  • Paper - Newspaper, office paper, cardboard, and other paper types.
  • Yard trimmings - Grass, leaves, and shrub and tree clippings are recycled by composting
  • Glass - Bottles and jars (clear, green, and amber).
  • Aluminum - Beverage containers.
  • Other metals - Steel cans, auto bodies, refrigerators, stoves, and batteries.
  • Used motor oil - Vehicle crankcase oil.
  • Plastics - Soda bottles, milk jugs, bags, and detergent containers.

Electronics Waste:

See Computers and Electronics

How can I find out about recycling in my community?

Check out the National Recycling Hotline's Web site Exiting EPA (disclaimer) or call 1-800-CLEANUP for geographically specific recycling information. Because recycling collection programs are very specific depending on your location, the best source of information is usually your local city or county recycling coordinator.

Do federal agencies have to recycle?

Yes. Executive Order 13101 Exiting EPA (disclaimer), "Greening of the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition," requires each federal agency to promote cost-effective recycling in all of its facilities. The Order also requires agencies to designate a recycling coordinator for each facility or installation. The Order lists specific products to be targeted for recycling and reuse and requires the purchase of recycled content products.

What is EPA doing to promote recycling?

EPA National Programs/Projects

  • Jobs Through Recycling (JTR) program puts the tools of business development, technology transfer, financing, and marketing into the hands of recycling businesses.
  • Pay-As-You-Throw (or unit pricing/variable-rate pricing) is a system where households pay for garbage collection by the amount of trash collected rather than a flat fee. Households save money by throwing away less garbage and recycling.
  • Climate Change and Waste is an EPA program that encourages people to reduce waste in order to help slow global warming.

How can I get additional information?

Web Sites

Contacts

EPA Region 9 Solid Waste Program

California
Office of Public Affairs, (ombudsman@calrecycle.ca.gov)
CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery)
Phone: (916) 341-6586

Nevada
Southern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Nicole Goehring, (ngoehring@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (702) 486-2850 x225

Northern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Jasmine Vittori, (jvittori@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (775) 687-9466

Arizona
Joseph B. Shaw, (JS15@azdeq.gov)
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (602) 771-5613

Hawaii
Jennifer Tosaki, (Jtosaki@eha.health.state.hi.us)
Department of Health, Solid & Hazardous Waste Section
Phone: (808) 586-4226

Publications

  • Business Guide for Reducing Solid Waste, EPA/530K-92-004, November 1993.
  • Recycling Guide for Native American Nations, EPA530-K-95-006, June 1995.
  • Cutting the Waste Stream in Half: Community Record-Setters Show How, (PDF, 179 pages, 1.42M), EPA530-R-99-013, June 1999
  • Puzzled About Recycling's Value? Look Beyond the Bin, EPA530-K-97-008, January 1998.
  • Recycling Means Business, EPA530-K-95-004, September 1995.
  • Office Paper Recycling: An Implementation Manual, EPA/530-SW-90-001, January 1990.
(To order the above documents call the RCRA Hotline at 800-424-9346. View EPA publications on the web.)

Top of page


Buying Recycled

Why should we buy recycled products?

One of the most immediate recycling challenges today is to educate consumers about the benefits of buying products made from recycled materials. Manufacturing is driven by the marketplace. Buying recycled content products creates long-term markets for recyclable materials and increases recycling program revenues. If demand exists for recycled content products, manufacturers will produce recycled products.

Some of the Benefits of Buying Recycled Products...

  • SAVES NATURAL RESOURCES - By making products with recycled materials instead of virgin materials, we conserve land and reduce the need to drill for oil, dig for minerals, and harvest trees.
  • SAVES ENERGY - It usually takes less energy to make recycled products; producing aluminum by recycling, for example, takes 95% less energy than producing new aluminum from bauxite ore.
  • SAVES CLEAN AIR AND WATER - Using recycled rather than virgin materials reduces the amount of pollutants emitted during resource acquisition and processing, and product manufacturing.
  • SAVES LANDFILL SPACE - When the materials that you recycle go into new products, they don't go into landfills, so landfill space is saved.
  • SAVES MONEY AND CREATES JOBS - The recycling process creates more jobs than landfills or incinerators, and recycling can frequently be the least expensive waste management method for cities and towns

What is a recycled product?

A recycled product is a product made in whole or in part from material recovered from the waste stream. Many "recycled products" contain less than 100% recovered materials. Therefore, they are more accurately referred to as recycled content products. Examples include a rebuilt or remanufactured commodity, such as a remanufactured laser toner cartridge, recycled paper, and recycled plastic lumber.

What is the difference between postconsumer, preconsumer, and recovered materials?

Recycled content products are often labeled with percentages of postconsumer and recovered material.

Postconsumer material is a material or a finished product that has served its intended use and then is diverted or recovered before it is disposed. It is the material consumers and businesses recycle; it does not include manufacturers waste that is commonly reused in the original manufacturing process. Postconsumer material is part of the broader category of recovered material.

Preconsumer material is material that is recycled before it is used by a consumer. For example, paper mill scraps that are recycled at a paper mill.

Recovered materials are waste materials and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste landfills, but do not include those materials and byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process. For example, steel scrap from an automobile plant that is recycled and made into steel beams is recovered material, but scrap paper that is recycled again in the paper mill is not.

Does EPA regulate the labeling of products as recycled?

EPA does not regulate this; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does.

Does EPA recommend the purchase of recycled content products?

Yes, but EPA does not endorse any particular product. EPA has expanded the government, "buy recycled", program by designating a total of 54 recycled content items. All product proposals and recommendations are published in the Federal Register and public comments are accepted. EPA evaluates six primary concerns when examining products for designation:

  1. use of materials found in the solid waste stream
  2. economic and technological feasibility and performance
  3. impact of government procurement
  4. availability of competition
  5. other uses for recovered materials
  6. other considerations

What recycled content products are available?

There are many high quality recycled products. Some examples include:

Paper Products
  • Copier and printer papers
  • Paper Towels
  • Note pads
  • Binders
  • Envelopes
Office Equipment and Supplies
  • Transparencies
  • Toner cartridges
  • Bulletin boards
  • Pens and pencils
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
Packing and Shipping Products
  • Corrugated containers
  • Shipping mailers
  • Polystyrene peanuts
Building and Construction Materials
  • Steel framing for construction
  • Plastic lumber
  • Roofing
  • Wallboard
  • Countertops
  • Flooring
  • Carpet
  • Paint
Clothing
  • Clothes made from recycled cotton
  • Clothes made from recycled plastic soda bottles
Automobiles
  • Re-refined motor oil
  • Retread tires
  • Used parts
  • Cars (the average car has 44% recycled steel content)
  • Mud flaps
Gardening and Yard Supplies
  • Mulch and compost
  • Hoses
  • Partition furniture
  • Fencing
Enter an easy access searchable database Exiting EPA (disclaimer) of more than 10,000 recycled content products.

How can I propose a recycled content product for EPA review?

To propose a recycled content product be considered for designation by EPA goes to the Comprehensive Procurement Guideline Program.

How do I "buy recycled"?

Safe Bets

These products almost always have a high percentage of recycled content even though they may not be labeled "recycled":

  • Steel, including food cans, bicycles, nails, appliances
  • Aluminum, including beverage cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Molded pulp containers, including cardboard egg cartons and fruit trays
  • Paper products - cereal, cake mix, and cracker boxes; toilet paper; paper towels; cardboard boxes; writing paper; greeting cards; copier and printer paper; and office paper products.
  • Plastic Bottles - bottles and jugs containing laundry detergent, dish washing liquids, shampoos, and household cleaners.
Read the Label

Labels may state that a product is "recyclable" or can be recycled; however this does not mean that it contains recycled content. Look for the highest percentage of "postconsumer recycled content." (Postconsumer is the material consumers and businesses recycle; it doesn't include manufacturers' waste that is commonly reused in the original manufacturing process). These products may or may not be made with recycled content, so be sure to read the label:

Are there any federal regulations on buying recycled content products?

  • Executive Order 13101, Greening of the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition," requires federal agencies to buy recycled and "environmentally preferable" products.
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act section 6002 requires procuring agencies that spend more than $10,000 a year on an item to buy products containing recovered materials. Procuring agencies are federal, state, and local agencies and their contractors. For federal agencies, the $10,000 threshold applies to all purchases made by an entire agency rather than local or regional offices (e.g., Department of Interior, Department of Defense, etc.). If a state or county agency spends more than $10,000 a year on an EPA-designated item, and part of that money is from appropriated federal funds, then the agency must purchase that item made from recovered materials. Agencies may elect not to purchase designated items when: the cost is unreasonable; inadequate competition exists; items are not available within a reasonable period of time; or items do not meet the agencies reasonable performance specifications.

What is the federal government doing to promote buying recycled?

National Programs/Projects

  • EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) program is part of EPA's continuing effort to promote the use of materials recovered from solid waste.
  • EPA's Environmentally Preferable Products Program (EPP) is a federal-wide program that encourages and assists Executive agencies to purchase environmentally preferable products and services.
  • Office of the Federal Environmental Executive advocates, coordinates, and assists environmental efforts in the Federal community in waste prevention, recycling, the affirmative procurement of guideline items and the acquisition of environmentally preferable products and services.

How can I get more information about buying recycled products?

Web sites

Contacts

EPA Region 9 Solid Waste Program

California
CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery)
Phone: (916) 341-6586

Nevada
Southern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Nicole Goehring, (ngoehring@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (702) 486-2850 x225

Northern Nevada Recycling Coordinator:
Jasmine Vittori, (jvittori@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Phone: (775) 687-9466

Arizona
Joseph B. Shaw, (JS15@azdeq.gov)
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (602) 771-5613

Hawaii
Jennifer Tosaki, (Jtosaki@eha.health.state.hi.us)
Department of Health, Solid & Hazardous Waste Section
Phone: (808) 586-4226

Publications

The above documents are free of charge and may be ordered online or requested by calling the RCRA Hotline at (800) 424-9346.

For Executive Order 13101 (63 FR 49641), September 16, 1998, view the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive Web site, or call the Executive Office of the President Publications Distribution Center at (202) 395-7332.

Top of page

Region 9 NewsroomRegion 9 Programs Grants & Funding US-Mexico Border Media Center Careers About Region 9A-Z Index

Jump to main content.