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

Efforts in Prince George's County, Md. and Altoona, Pa. highlighted

07/10/2020
Contact Information: 
US. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region (R3press@epa.gov)

PHILADELPHIA (July 9, 2020) – As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 50th anniversary celebration, EPA Mid-Atlantic Region is highlighting both national and regional successes in recycling.

EPA is working with its partners to address some of today’s recycling challenges and taking action to assist municipalities and local governments, while promoting the benefits of recycling.

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.”

“Throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, individuals and businesses are demonstrating an enthusiastic commitment to recycling,” said EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “These efforts provide positive impacts on both our environment and the economy.”

Recycling benefits the environment by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, conserving natural resources and preventing pollution. Recycling benefits the economy by increasing economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials and saving energy.

EPA Mid-Atlantic Region highlights its regional efforts in recycling, with examples such as Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania. 

EPA awarded Prince George’s County with a $20,000 Solid Waste Grant in late 2017 to start a one-year curbside recycling pilot program.  The pilot was launched with 140 households, and collected on average 6 tons, or 12 pounds of food waste, (5.5 pounds per household) per week to their county composting facility.  They increased collections to 200 households in May 2018, and recently announced that they will expand collection to 3000 households in 2020 and expect to eventually collect food waste to be composted from all 170,000 households in the County.  

The James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center won EPA’s 2019 award for reducing waste by composting more than 338 tons of material related to a stormwater retention swale and Victory Garden renovation. The Medical Center was recognized for their continuing work in sustaining their innovative approach using “Green Teams,” to make assessments in their working areas to recycle paper, turn off lights and motivate and challenge other teams to be greener.  The VA Medical Center Procedure Clinic’s Green Team, with their emblazoned “GANG GREEN” T-shirts, has more than 90 percent of its employees working actively on the team, establishing email groups for exchanging ideas and promoting the program to new employees.

Despite incredible progress at the national level, the U.S. recycling system is facing several 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. Accomplishments include:

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.

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.

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