America Recycles Day

Started in 1997. America Recycles Day (ARD), November 15, is the only nationally recognized day in the USA dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products.

Since there is no national law that mandates recycling, state and local governments often introduce recycling requirements. A number of U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have passed laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers while other jurisdictions rely on recycling goals or landfill bans of recyclable materials. Some cities, such as New York City and Seattle, have created laws that enforce fines upon citizens who throw away certain recyclable materials. There are also voluntary programs and educational programs to increase recycling where it is not mandated by law. The city of Ann Arbor, for example has contracted with a local non-profit organization Recycle Ann Arbor to provide curbside recycling services and public recycling centers.
The first recycling mill was Waste Techniques, built in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania in 1972.Waste Techniques was sold to Frank Keel in 1978, and resold to BFI in 1981. Woodbury, New Jersey was the first city in the United States to mandate recycling. Led by Rose Rowan in the early 1970s, the idea of towing a 'recycling' trailer behind a waste management vehicle to enable the collection of trash and recyclable material at the same time emerged. Other towns and cities soon followed suit, and today many cities in the U.S. make recycling a requirement.
In 1987, the Mobro 4000 barge hauled garbage from New York to North Carolina; where it was denied. It was then sent to Belize; where it was denied as well. Finally, the barge returned to New York and the garbage was incinerated. The incident led to heated discussions in the media about waste disposal and recycling. The incident is often referred to as igniting the recycling 'hysteria' of the 1990s.

On a national level, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees a variety of waste issues. These include regulation of hazardous wastes, landfill regulations, and setting recycling goals. More specific recycling legislation is localized through city or state governments. Further regulation is reserved for individual states to create. State regulation falls into two major categories: landfill bans and recycling goals. Landfill bans make it illegal to dispose of enumerated items in a landfill. Most often these items include yard waste, oil, and recyclables easily collected in curbside recycling programs. States with landfill bans of recyclables include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and North Carolina. Other states focus on recycling goals. These include California and Illinois. Some ways that states encourage recycling of specific drink containers is by passing a bottle bill.
A number of U.S. states, such as California, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, Michigan and New York have passed these laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers in order to promote reuse and recycling. Most are five cents per can or bottle. Michigan's deposit is 10 cents.
Another option to recycling is mandatory recycling. Implementing mandatory recycling could help cities improve. What that means is that recyclables would be prohibited from households, businesses and apartment garbage. With businesses that would include cardboard, paper and yard waste which would be prohibited from their garbage. For apartments and houses, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic would be prohibited. With businesses and apartments, if garbage collectors find more that 10 percent of the container filled with recyclables, they will leave a tag. On the third tag they will then leave a $50 fine. However, with households there will be no fining. If they do find garbage though, they will leave a tag and ask you to sort out your garbage that they will then collect the next week.

Financial implications

When recycling was a newer industry recycling cost as much or more than trash disposal. Some opponents of recycling argued that state support for recycling may be more financially expensive in the short term than alternatives such as landfill; recycling efforts in New York City cost $57 million per year in 2002. To refute this argument people pointed out that the benefits to society from recycling compensate for any difference in cost. Landfilling waste is an inefficient use of resources, contributes to global warming through the release of methane into the atmosphere and by the pollution of groundwater and waterways. The long term financial costs of remediating pollution caused by landfilling waste are often not taken into consideration.
However, in many areas there is now an economic incentive to recycle. As early as 2003 Fort Worth Texas was making $1,000,000 from their recycling program. Similarly, Waukesha County's recycling program in Wisconsin began operating with positive revenues in 2004. Most recently, Waukesha County began receiving a $6.50 per ton bonus for recyclables coming into their private MRF (Materials Recycling Facility). Combining that with average revenue from the sale of the materials and the extra cost incurred if the items were landfilled, the average total lost revenue (county's share) for recyclables thrown in the landfill is $112.50.

Recycling education

Integrating recycling into K-12 educational system has become a goal for many educators. Usually it is integrated into science or social studies classrooms. This is due to its inclusion in the national education standards for both of these subject areas. Common areas that recycling is integrated into the curriculum include areas such as the study of natural resources, general environmental units, soil units, water units, community units, economic units, and geography units. Although interest is growing, major textbook publishers do not always include recycling in a textbook so teachers are left to supplement the textbooks with outside curriculum to meet the national standards. For example, in a unit about trees or natural resources teachers could include supplemental curriculum about recycling because in the textbook it is never explicitly covered. Non-profit organizations as well as governmental organizations have created supplemental curriculum for teachers to fill this void. Some purely non-profit groups include the Center for a New American Dream and Be SMART. Other creators of curriculum include governmental offices. Some of these include Oregon, California, and Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Also, some non-profit organizations have partnered with sections of the government to collaborate on educational materials. For example, The Keystone Center partnered with the United States Department of Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory to create curriculum on global warming.
Some private companies have taken on the task of educating children and adults on the benefits of recycling. Among them is award-winning Recology, a San Francisco-based resource recovery company. A growing collection of MyEcoVille websites are also available to the public and have been developed by the private company, Emerge Knowledge. These websites are licensed to public and non-profit organizations for the purpose of educating adults and children about local recycling.

America Recycles Day

America Recycles Day (ARD) is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. ARD is celebrated annually on November 15. The World Recycling Day celebrated in most countries, though falls on July 8. Thousands of events are held across the U.S. to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and to encourage Americans to sign personal pledges to recycle and buy products made from recycled materials.
Started by the recycling sector organization National Recycling Coalition in 1997, America Recycles Day has been a program of national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful since 2009. As the managing entity of America Recycles Day, Keep America Beautiful provides promotional and marketing support and resources to a network of local event organizers. It is sponsored by private and public entities and the EPA.
Although America may not enjoy much of a reputation for environmentalism on the global stage, in some US cities recycling levels are much higher than, for example, in the UK.


In a 1996 article in The New York Times, John Tierney claimed that government mandated recycling wastes more resources than it saves. Some highlights from the article:
In cases where recycling truly does save resources, such as with large scraps of aluminium, this will be reflected in market prices, and voluntary recycling will take place. Thus, there is no need for the government to mandate it.
Adopting a 'pay as you throw' scheme would motivate people to find out 'what's worth diverting to a recycling bin' so there would be no need for recycling laws. This has been supported by some environmental groups as well.
Tree farmers plant more trees than they cut down.
Government mandated recycling is more expensive than putting the garbage into landfills.
Some small towns with landfills are happy to import garbage from other cities and states because it provides jobs and tax revenue.
Today's modern landfills are much cleaner and safer, and much less likely to leak and pollute than the landfills of the past.
Incinerators make more energy than recycling saves. Also, some things, such as glossy paper, can't be recycled, and it is better to burn such materials for energy.
Regarding the claim that the U.S. is running out of landfill space, Tierney wrote, 'A. Clark Wiseman, an economist at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, has calculated that if Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards (91 m) deep, by the year 3000 this national garbage heap will fill a square piece of land 35 miles (56 km) on each side. This doesn't seem a huge imposition in a country the size of America. The garbage would occupy only 5 percent of the area needed for the national array of solar panels proposed by environmentalists. The millennial landfill would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the range land now available for grazing in the continental United States. And if it still pains you to think of depriving posterity of that 35-mile (56 km) square, remember that the loss will be only temporary. Eventually, like previous landfills, the mounds of trash will be covered with grass and become a minuscule addition to the nation's 150,000 square miles (390,000 km2) of parkland.'
Tierney's article received a referenced critique from the Environmental Defense Fund, which noted that 'the article relied heavily on quotes and information supplied by a group of consultants and think tanks that have strong ideological objections to recycling'. In 2003, the city of Santa Clarita, California was paying $28 per ton to put garbage into a landfill. The city then adopted a mandatory diaper recycling program that cost $1,800 per ton. In a 2007 article, Michael Munger, the Chair of Political Science at Duke University, wrote, '... if recycling is more expensive than using new materials, it can't possibly be efficient... There is a simple test for determining whether something is a resource... or just garbage... If someone will pay you for the item, it's a resource... But if you have to pay someone to take the item away... then the item is garbage.' In a 2002 article for The Heartland Institute, Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, wrote, 'If it costs X to deliver newly manufactured plastic to the market, for example, but it costs 10X to deliver reused plastic to the market, we can conclude the resources required to recycle plastic are 10 times more scarce than the resources required to make plastic from scratch. And because recycling is supposed to be about the conservation of resources, mandating recycling under those circumstances will do more harm than good.' In 2002, WNYC reported that 40% of the garbage that New York City residents separated for recycling actually ended up in landfills.
In 2003, Daniel K. Benjamin (a professor of economics at Clemson University) published a paper through the Property & Environment Research Center that reiterated many of the points brought up in the New York Times article, backing them up with a detailed inquery into the recycling industry of the US. In 2010, he followed up on that with an updated look into the recycling policies of the US, finding that not much has changed.

Local government

US state laws and regulations dealing with scrap tires are currently enacted in 48 states. Here are some common features of state programs that deal with scrap tires: source of funding for the program; licensing or registration of scrap tire haulers, processors, and end users; manifests for scrap tire shipments; limitations on who may handle scrap tires; financial assurance requirements for scrap tire handlers; and market development activities. Some state programs are now supported by fees charged to the consumer at purchase or disposal of each tire. These fees, sometimes called “tipping fees”, help to support recycling costs. When the disposal rates charged to consumers are set high, this in turn discourages landfill disposal, a simple solution encouraging more affordable tire recycling programs.