EPA: National Recycling Strategy

National Recycling Strategy: Part One of a Series on Building a Circular Economy

The National Recycling Strategy: Part One of a Series on Building a Circular Economy is focused on enhancing and advancing the national municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling system and identifies strategic objectives and stakeholder-led actions to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective domestic MSW recycling system. It is part one of a series dedicated to building a circular economy for all. Subsequent parts of the series are currently under development. The vision includes the full impact of materials while also recognizing the need to achieve environmental justice priorities. The Strategy reflects the work of many stakeholders – including the public, companies, and non-governmental and community-based organizations – and input from other federal agencies, states, tribes and local governments.

The U.S. MSW recycling system currently faces a number of challenges, including confusion about what materials can be recycled, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, reduced markets for recycled materials, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance. The National Recycling Strategyidentifies actions to address these challenges that build on the collaborative efforts by stakeholders from across the recycling system that began under the 2019 National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System.

Advancing MSW recycling alone will not achieve a circular economy for the United States; recycling is only one action in the toolkit. Work is necessary to broadly encompass areas not addressed here, including product redesign, source reduction, and reuse. Recycling efforts in the United States are inclusive of more than just the processing of MSW at material recovery facilities and include many other materials, such electronics, textiles, cement, concrete, and food waste. Future strategies will address these and other aspects of building a circular economy for all.

The National Recycling Strategy recognizes the need to implement a circular economy approach for all – reducing the creation of waste with local communities in mind and implementing materials management strategies that are inclusive of communities with environmental justice concerns.

The National Recycling Strategy is aligned with and supports implementation of the National Recycling Goal to increase the recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030. The Strategy is organized by five strategic objectives to create a more resilient and cost-effective national recycling system:

A. Improve Markets for Recycling Commodities.

B. Increase Collection and Improve Materials Management Infrastructure.

C. Reduce Contamination in the Recycled Materials Stream.

D. Enhance Policies to Support Recycling.

E. Standardize Measurement and Increase Data Collection.

To ensure the U.S. is making progress in advancing recycling, EPA will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a plan for implementing the National Recycling Strategy. EPA will ensure communities have a seat at the table and are involved in developing the implementation plan, as well as executing the actions in this Strategy. EPA plans to collaborate across all levels of government, including Tribal Nations, and with public and private stakeholders to achieve these ambitious goals.

National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System

The National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System, released November 2019, is the product of a multi-stakeholder collaborative effort that began on November 15, 2018. On that day, EPA hosted the first America Recycles Day Summit, which for the first time ever brought together stakeholders from across the U.S. recycling system to join EPA in signing the America Recycles Pledge. Participants included representatives from federal, local, state and tribal governments; the recycling industry; non-profits; manufacturers; and product brands, who worked collaboratively over the course of 2019. All 45 signing organizations, including EPA, pledged to work together to identify specific actions to take in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. recycling system.

Through the pledge, organizations committed to leveraging their collective expertise, strengths and resources to address these challenges and opportunities. Workgroups were formed to address four critical areas for action: promoting education and outreach, enhancing materials management infrastructure, strengthening secondary materials markets, and enhancing measurement. These action areas have been continually underscored and reaffirmed as the primary areas of need to address the challenges facing our recycling system.

This document summarizes the activities and accomplishments of the workgroup participants in 2019 and lays out the path forward for continued action in 2020. It also provides a foundation on which additional actions can be identified and taken. It is only through collective action that the needed systemic change will occur. EPA encourages all to build on this National Framework, work with others across the materials value chain and become actively engaged in improving our recycling system.

National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System (pdf) (4.36 MB, November 2019)

Draft National Recycling Strategy and Executive Summary

In October 2020, EPA published a draft of the National Recycling Strategy for public comment.

EPA asked several key questions for the public to consider when reviewing and commenting on the draft strategy:

  • Of the proposed actions, which are the most important and would have the greatest positive impact at the local, regional and national level?
  • What are the key implementation steps and milestones necessary to successfully implement these actions?
  • Is your organization willing to lead an action? Or collaborate with others to implement the actions? What factors would your organization take into account when considering whether to lead an action?
  • What are the most important roles and/or actions for federal agencies to lead?
  • Are there other actions that should be included in the strategy?
  • Do you have additional information or recommendations to inform the development of the strategy?

Originally posted at: https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy/national-recycling-strategy


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