Historically, much of the nationís resource conservation efforts have focused on decisions to reuse or recycle materials that would otherwise be disposed as waste. While these remain important resource conservation practices, they only represent a fraction of all the opportunities available to conserve resources. Through a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) approach, EPA is helping change the way our society protects the environment and conserves resources for future generations. Building on the familiar concept of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, SMM is a systemic approach that seeks to reduce materials use and their associated environmental impacts over their entire life cycle, starting with extraction of natural resources and product design and ending with decisions on recycling or final disposal. This approach changes how we think about environmental protection and recognizes the impacts of the vast amount of materials we consume.
EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program
By examining the entire product life cycle, SMM holds the promise to conserve vital resources, reduce waste, and minimize the environmental footprint of the materials we use. EPA is playing a leadership role in advancing SMM by convening dialogues with key SMM stakeholders, providing sound science and information to the public, and establishing challenges to specific sectors to achieve shared goals. Learn more
Answer the Challenge
EPA is collaborating with other federal agencies, businesses, and schools in key SMM challenges. EPA has chosen three challenges to demonstrate how the sustainable materials concept is moving the U.S. towards a more sustainable future.
Learn how to become involved:
Sustainable Financing for Municipal Recycling - EPA convened dialogue of stakeholders to determine options on the sustainable financing for municipal recycling programs with an initial focus on packaging. These stakeholders developed a report that outlines the options.
Waste Wise - An EPA program that promotes the prevention and recycling of municipal solid waste and select industrial materials.
SMM Data Management System - Tracking and reporting system for an organization's waste generation and reduction activities.
SMM Web Academy - Learn about key issues, successful projects, and a variety of best management practices for creating distinguished waste management programs.