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EPA Celebrates America Recycles Day, Convenes Recycling Summit to Strengthen Domestic Recycling

Acting Administrator Wheeler extends mercury switch MOU, 44 organizations sign EPA’s recycling pledge

11/15/2018
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON  — Today, President Trump issued a message in celebration of America Recycles Day emphasizing the importance and impact of recycling in protecting our environment and growing our economy. In line with the President’s message, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler convened the first ever EPA Recycling Summit bringing together leaders from industry and all levels of government to discuss opportunities to advance and strengthen the domestic recycling industry and markets. In addition, Administrator Wheeler signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between EPA’s Smart Sectors program and the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP) to reduce mercury air emissions.

“During today’s historic summit, a wide array of industry, government, and non-profit leaders advanced ideas and solutions to enhance our recycling infrastructure, create new markets for recycled materials, and improve public education regarding recycling,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Enhancing the domestic recycling industry not only improves the environment, but it also saves local governments valuable resources and provides high-quality materials for American manufacturers. Signing the new mercury switch MOU will help industrial automotive recyclers safely remove and recycle mercury switches and prevent the unnecessary release of mercury into the environment. Enhancing the domestic recycling industry will improve the environment, save local governments valuable resources, and provide high-quality materials for American manufacturers. Signing the new mercury switch MOU will help industrial automotive recyclers safely remove and recycle mercury switches and prevent the unnecessary release of mercury into the environment.”

During the Recycling Summit, EPA and participants signed a unified pledge to commit to work together to improve the state of the recycling system in the United States. 

Administrator Wheeler set the tone for the summit and challenged stakeholders to make substantial progress addressing the challenges facing America’s recycling system over the next year. His remarks sparked a dialogue with recycling system stakeholders that focused on opportunities and their perspectives and plans resulting from recent market disruptions and the need to improve domestic recycling systems, including collection, infrastructure, and end markets for recovered materials.

The Recycling Summit focused on four action areas to improve and develop over the next year to advance a national approach to recycling: (1) education and outreach, (2) enhancing materials management infrastructure, (3) strengthening secondary materials markets, and (4) enhancing measurement.

At the summit, Administrator Wheeler also renewed EPA's participation in the mercury switch MOU until 2021. By diverting more than 6.8 million mercury switches from the waste streams to date, the program has prevented the release of 7.6 tons of mercury into the atmosphere. Other parties to the MOU include the Steel Manufacturers Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corporation, the Automotive Recyclers Association, and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. 

To read the MOU, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/mercury-switch-recovery-program

On America Recycles Day, EPA released “Recycling: Protecting the environment and growing the economy” highlighting EPA’s recycling efforts across programs at the Agency and its ten Regions. The packet also outlines opportunities for solutions to recycling challenges including: creating a more resilient recycling system capable of withstanding disruptions; supporting more competitive manufacturing by converting materials that are currently managed as waste into valuable raw materials; maintaining U.S. economic competitiveness in the future; identifying opportunities for investment in municipal recycling facilities to recover more material; and creating jobs. 

To read the full packet, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/newsroom/recycling-protecting-environment-and-growing-economy-booklet

Four Recycling Action Areas

  1. The development of effective outreach and education strategies for consumers, local, tribal and state governments as well as other stakeholders on what to do with recyclable materials at end-of-use will improve the quality and quantity of materials that Americans recycle, which will strengthen markets for those recyclable materials.

    Since 1960, the U.S. recycling rate has increased from less than 7 percent to 35 percent in 2015. An EPA study found that every 10,000 tons of materials recycled supports nearly 16 jobs and $760,000 in wages. Paying attention to what is being recycled can ensure that what is placed in the curbside bin is accepted by local recycling providers and is also clean and dry.

    Focusing on only recycling materials that are locally accepted – like cardboard, metals cans, and paper – will reduce contamination and ensure that more materials get a second life and go back into the economy. Putting the wrong things in the bin can increase the cost of recycling for a community, cause everything to end up as garbage rather than recycled, and endanger the safety of workers at local recycling facilities. Items like plastic bags, batteries, and electronics should never go in the recycling bin, but these can often be donated or recycled somewhere else, such as taking plastic bags back to the grocery store collection bin, taking used batteries to hardware stores or collection centers, or donating used electronics.
     
  2. New investments to upgrade and modernize the national recycling infrastructure can produce a more resilient national recycling system capable of withstanding changes in the recyclable material stream and markets.
     
  3. Encouraging communication and collaboration among the different sectors of the economy, including private enterprise and governmental entities, will support innovation, development, manufacture, and reuse of high-quality recyclable materials that consumers want to purchase, that manufacturers want to use as feedstock, that retailers want to offer for sale, and that recyclers want to collect and reprocess. A stronger domestic recycling market will support local communities by creating more jobs, provide the overall U.S. economy with greater resilience and self-reliance, and present achievable cost savings for municipalities.
     
  4. Working together to standardize and align measurement and tracking of recyclable materials will help better inform actions and investment to improve recyclable materials management in the U.S.

To read the Presidential Message released for America Recycles Day, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/presidential-message-america-recycles-day/

For more information on recycling and America Recycles Day, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/america-recycles-day-2018