Recycling in the US could be lower than the EPA and states are reporting

A new survey of state recycling managers in the US has revealed that recycling levels may be lower than federal figures claim, and in some states recycling is actually on the decline due to deadlock between industry and government.

According to the survey, published by the US Recycling Policy News, from Raymond Communications, the policy options that are popular with state regulators, such as deposit schemes and producer responsibility, are often decidedly unpopular with industry. “We do not have a spirit of co-operation between industry and government in the US,” a Raymond Communications spokesman told edie. This adversarial atmosphere has been led by the soft drinks manufacturers (see related story), who are further complicating the recycling issue by gradually phasing out glass in favour of plastic containers – which are also becoming increasingly small – the contents of which tend to be consumed away from customers’ homes, further reducing chances of them being recycled.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates average national recycling to be 27.8% for 1999-2000, many states do not count their rates and some only estimate them. The report’s authors believe that the rate could be 26.2%, but in reality it is probably far lower if wastes such as paper sludge are included in the waste stream figures. There have also been declines in curb-side collections occurring in a number of states, including Florida, Iowa, Maine and New York, and even the 27 states that have reported a rise in recycling schemes had only increased their number by one throughout the year.

Details on the results of the state recycling survey will be included in the new State Recycling Laws Update Year-End Edition, 2001, which will be available in early September.

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