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America Recycles

U.S. National Recycling Goal

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Overview

EPA recognizes that collective and collaborative commitments are best achieved when there are common goals. At the 2019 America Recycles Summit, Administrator Wheeler announced that EPA would work to establish national recycling goal(s) in 2020 to inspire action and drive participation, innovation and progress across the entire value chain, including consumers. Since then, EPA worked with the America Recycles Measurement Workgroup to identify metrics that could quantify the performance of different components of the recycling system. On November 17, 2020 at the America Recycles Summit, Administrator Wheeler announced the National Recycling Goal to increase the U.S. recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030. The national goal and associated indicators developed from specific metrics will provide the benchmarks needed to evaluate the success of the collective efforts to significantly improve the nation’s recycling system.

As a parallel effort, EPA developed a draft National Recycling Strategy that identifies objectives and actions needed to create a stronger, more resilient U.S. recycling system. The draft National Recycling Strategy is open for public comment until December 4, 2020. For more information on the strategy and how to comment, visit the Draft Recycling Strategy web page.

The metrics identified in the National Goal are based on the broad objectives of the draft National Recycling Strategy and are divided into four categories: assessing recycling performance, reducing contamination, increasing processing efficiency and strengthening recycled material markets. The National Recycling Goal aims to create standardized definitions for the recycling industry to keep pace with today’s diverse and changing waste system. The draft strategy will identify actions needed to address these challenges that build on the collaborative efforts by stakeholders from across the recycling system that began under the National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System.

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National Recycling Goal

The National Recycling Goal is to increase the national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030.

Graphic that says 50 percent recycling rate by 2030This goal will help EPA, stakeholders, and the public see how the United States is managing materials more sustainably. It will help governments to make necessary changes to collection and sorting systems and help industry determine the supply of available materials and make investment decisions.


List of Measures

  • Measure 1: Reduce contamination in recycling. Reducing the percentage of the wrong materials in the recycling stream helps ensure clean recyclable materials, such as paper, glass or plastic, can be processed and made into new products. We need to increase public education and outreach. We know most people want to recycle, but there’s confusion about what can be put in the bin, depending on where you live.
    • How we’ll measure this: By calculating the percentage of contaminants (wrong materials) in recycled materials.
       
  • Measure 2: Make our recycling processing system more efficient. Making our processing system more efficient will help more of the material that is intended to be recycled get recycled. We can achieve this through improvements to our processing system. We need to invest in new equipment upgrades and make curbside recycling accessible for more Americans.
    • How we’ll measure this: By tracking the percentage of materials successfully recycled through a recycling facility compared to the materials that the facility receives.
       
  • Measure 3: Strengthen the economic markets for recycled materials. Strengthening the economic markets for recycled materials will help manufacturers make more products using recycled materials and encourage demand from consumers for more products that are made with recycled materials.
    • How we’ll measure this: By tracking the average price of a ton of recycled materials (also known as the commodity value) on the market.
       

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