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America Recycles

National Recycling Goal: Recycling Rate Measurement Comment Period

At the 2020 America Recycles Summit on November 17, 2020, EPA announced the overall national recycling goal of increasing the U.S. recycling rate to 50% by 2030.  This national goal will provide the benchmark to evaluate the success of the collective efforts to improve the nation’s recycling system. EPA is now soliciting comments on the recycling rate measurement methodology. Comments will be accepted until 11:59 PM ET on March 8, 2021

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Background Information

EPA recognizes that collective and collaborative commitments are best achieved when there are common goals. At the 2019 America Recycles Summit, EPA announced that it would work to establish national recycling goal(s) in 2020 to inspire action and drive participation, innovation and progress across the entire value chain. EPA then worked with the America Recycles Measurement Workgroup to identify metrics that could quantify the performance of different components of the recycling system. The metrics identified to measure system-wide recycling performance were divided into four categories: assessing recycling performance, reducing contamination, increasing processing efficiency and strengthening recycled material markets. A public comment period was held for the proposed metrics from September 2 to October 2, 2020.  EPA received letters from 61 unique commenters with over 800 individual comments, which were taken into consideration when selecting the overall national recycling goal.

At the 2020 America Recycles Summit on November 17, 2020, EPA announced the overall national recycling goal of increasing the U.S. recycling rate to 50% by 2030.  This national goal will provide the benchmark to evaluate the success of the collective efforts to improve the nation’s recycling system. As currently calculated, the national recycling rate is 32%. EPA is now working to develop an updated methodology for the measurement of the recycling rate.  Methodologies for the three additional key performance indicators that were also announced at the America Recycles Summit (recycled commodity contamination, processing yield and commodity value), will be released for public comment at a later date.

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Comments

The purpose of this comment period is to inform the methodology and identify key data points that EPA may include when calculating the national recycling rate. For the purposes of this comment period, EPA is soliciting comments on the recycling rate measurement methodology only. The questions below are grouped into five key measurement categories related to the recycling rate: Sources of Recyclable Material, Material Streams, Material Management Pathways, Material Destination and Other Considerations.

Please submit the comments to the following docket: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2020-0443 at ORCRMeasurement@epa.gov.

Comments will be accepted until 11:59 PM ET on March 8, 2021

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Key Measurement Scoping Categories

1. Sources of Recyclable Material

What sources of material should be included in the calculation of the recycling rate?
 
  • Residential homes (including single-family homes and multi-family housing)
  • Commercial establishments (including restaurants and business)
  • Institutions (including schools, hospitals, prisons etc.)
  • Non-process industrial materials (i.e.  packaging waste, food services wastes, typical office refuse, etc.)
  • Process-related industrial materials (such as manufacturing scrap)
Are there additional sources of recyclable material that should be included? If so, please provide recommended additions.

2. Material Streams

In addition to the current standard mechanically-recycled materials – such as paper and paperboard, glass, metals and plastic packaging – should any of the following material streams be included in the recycling rate calculation?

  • Appliances
  • Automobiles
  • Batteries
  • Carpet
  • Construction and demolition (C&D) debris
  • Electronics/e-waste
  • Food and Organics
  • Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)
  • Industrial waste (coal ash, foundry sand, iron and steel slag, etc.)
  • Mattresses
  • Paint
  • Renewable energy equipment (wind turbines, solar panels, etc.)
  • Textiles
  • Tires
  • Yard waste
Are there any other material streams that should be included when calculating the recycling rate? If so, please provide recommended additions.

3.Material Management Pathways:

Material management pathways refer to how post-consumer materials are processed. In addition to mechanical recycling, which of the following pathways should be included in the recycling rate calculation?

  • Reuse
  • Repair, Refurbishment, & Remanufacturing
  • Donation
  • Composting
  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Bio-based Materials / Biochemical Processing (which includes rendering of fats/oils/greases)
  • Animal feed
  • Land application
  • Sewer/wastewater treatment
  • Landfill cover, such as the use of crushed glass for alternative daily cover (ADC)
  • Beneficial use (encapsulated, such as in concrete; or unencapsulated, such as use in roadbed)
  • Pyrolysis (Pyrolysis refers to a process through which post-use polymers are heated in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere until melted and thermally decomposed and then cooled, condensed, and converted into a raw, intermediate, or final product, including plastics, chemicals, fuels, and other products.)
    • If pyrolysis is included, should all products be considered as recycling in recycling rate calculations? Or should inclusion be limited to specific end products (purified polymers, chemicals with a pathway back to plastic, all fuels, etc.)?
  • Solvolysis (Solvolysis refers to a process through which post-use plastics are reacted with the aid of solvents while heated and/or pressurized, allowing additives and contaminants to be separated.  The process includes but is not limited to hydrolysis, aminolysis, ammonoloysis, methanolysis, ethanolysis and glycolysis. The products of solvolysis include but are not limited to monomers, intermediates and valuable raw materials.)
    • If solvolysis is included, should all products be considered as recycling in recycling rate calculations? Or should inclusion be limited to specific end products (purified polymers, chemicals with a pathway back to plastic, all fuels, etc.)?
  • Depolymerization (Depolymerization refers to a process through which polymers or plastic materials are broken down into smaller molecules using a combination of heat, pressure, and/or solvents and converted into a raw material, intermediate, or final product, including plastics, chemicals, fuels, and other products.)
    • If depolymerization is included, should all products be considered as recycling in recycling rate calculations? Or should inclusion be limited to specific end products (purified polymers, chemicals with a pathway back to plastic, all fuels, etc.)?
  • Gasification (Gasification refers to a high temperature process through which recovered feedstocks are heated and converted into a fuel-gas mixture in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere and the mixture is converted into a raw, intermediate, or final product, including plastics, chemicals, fuels, and other products.)
    • If gasification is included, should all products be considered as recycling in recycling rate calculations? Or should inclusion be limited to specific end products (purified polymers, chemicals with a pathway back to plastic, all fuels, etc.)?
  • Combustion with Energy Recovery (also called Waste-to-Energy)
Are there any other material management pathways that should be included in recycling rate calculations? If so, please provide recommended additions.

4. Material Destinations

Should exports of recycled commodities be excluded in the calculation of recycling rate in order to focus efforts on increasing domestic markets?

5. Other Considerations

Are there other considerations EPA should take into account while evaluating how to measure the recycling rate?

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