To boost the country’s recycling rates, we need an accurate measurement first

"We are misrepresenting and inflating the amount of material recycled."

Henry Hintermeister

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its goal in November 2020 of boosting the United States’ recycling rate from 32 to 50 percent by 2030. U.S. PIRG commends this target — but there are a few things we first need to fix about how the agency counts “recycling.”

To start, materials are currently counted as “recycled” if they make it to processing facility, regardless of whether or not they are actually turned into something new.

“We are misrepresenting and inflating the amount of material recycled,” said Haley Clinton, Zero Waste campaign associate with U.S. PIRG. “Any recycling rate should measure material reuse or reprocessing rates, not collection.”

In addition, there are practices baked into the EPA’s numbers that shouldn’t be counted at all, including chemical recycling — the process of converting plastic into fuels and feedstocks instead of recycled material.

Thousands of supporters from across our national network submitted public comments urging the EPA to revise its methodolgy in March.

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Henry Hintermeister