Part one of EPA’s ‘National Recycling Strategy’ underwhelms

Media Contacts
Alex Truelove

Circular economy plan does not (yet) address the root of America’s recycling problems


DENVER —  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its first National Recycling Strategy, part one of what the agency promises to be a “series on building a circular economy for all.” After receiving input from various stakeholders, including U.S. PIRG, the EPA chose five objectives, all of which focus on post-consumer waste management, that have historically yielded mixed results:

  • Improve markets for recycled commodities  
  • Increase collection and improve materials management infrastructure
  • Reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream
  • Enhance policies and programs to support circularity
  • Standardize measurement and increase data collection.

Despite opposition from many environmental and public health groups, the EPA also included “chemical recycling,” a dangerous and unproven technology that converts plastic waste into emissions.

U.S. PIRG Zero Waste Director Alex Truelove issued the following statement in response: 

“While the EPA has the best of intentions and some good ideas, part one of its new strategy barely addresses the elephant in the room: We produce way too much waste and most of it isn’t recyclable. No amount of increased education or collection will change that. And melting our plastic into fuels and harmful emissions will only damage our environment even more.

“I sincerely hope that in the next installments of this series, the EPA directs more attention towards promoting reduction and reuse, so we have less to recycle. That means incentivizing companies to design better products to help people waste less and recycle more. And we need the EPA to ban, rather than promote, harmful practices that worsen our climate. That’s how to create and foster a circular economy that benefits every American.”