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EPA at 50: Improving and Increasing Recycling Across the Nation to Preserve Resources and Land

07/07/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON (July 7, 2020) – Today, as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 50th anniversary celebration, the agency is highlighting the progress the nation has made on recycling and how EPA is working with its partners to address today’s challenges. Recycling benefits communities, the environment, and the American economy, accounting for nearly 757,000 jobs and $36.6 billion in wages.

“Since EPA was founded in 1970, the U.S. recycling rate has risen from 10 percent to 35 percent and we aim to push it even higher,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Later this year, EPA will establish new national recycling goals and take steps to support the recycling industry in new ways.”

“Recycling is a tangible way that everyone every day can help protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management Assistant Administrator Peter Wright. “The positive impacts on both our environment and economy are more important than ever.”

When EPA was founded in 1970, the national recycling rate was less than 10 percent. Curbside recycling did not start until 1980 when Woodbury, N.J. become the first city to offer curbside recycling. Today, recycling programs can be found across the country and the national recycling rate has risen to about 35 percent.

Despite this incredible progress, the U.S. recycling system is facing a number of challenges. Recognizing this opportunity, Administrator Wheeler hosted the first America Recycles Day Summit on November 15, 2018.  The Summit brought together stakeholders from across the U.S. recycling system to join EPA in signing the America Recycles Pledge and identifying four action areas:

  • Promote Education and Outreach;
  • Enhance Materials Management Infrastructure;
  • Strengthen Secondary Material Markets; and
  • Enhance Measurement.

Last year, at the 2019 America Recycles Day Summit, EPA released the National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System , and Administrator Wheeler announced that EPA would establish a national recycling goal in 2020.  

EPA and the now more than 200 America Recycles Pledge signers have made significant progress since first convening in 2018. 

Over the past year, EPA has been continuing to work with the pledge signers to develop a “virtual clearinghouse” to assist municipalities and local governments find important recycling resources in one place. The America Recycles network has also developed a map of the U.S. recycling system to help set the national recycling goals. EPA has hosted recycling market development workshops, issued public service announcements encouraging recycling “right” during COVID-19, and published a Federal Register notice seeking comment on the federal government’s “buy recycled” program, under the authority of EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG).

To learn more about the efforts visit: https://www.epa.gov/americarecycles

Organizations can join the effort by signing the pledge: https://www.epa.gov/americarecycles/forms/america-recycles-pledge

For recycling tips and resources for individuals, visit: https://www.epa.gov/recycle