U.S. EPA seeks to boost recycling

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AUSTIN, Texas – The Bush administration has launched a new campaign to help boost recycling of materials ranging from metals to plastics to paper.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation Challenge aims to meet or beat two goals by 2005: boosting the national recycling rate from 30 percent to at least 35 percent and curbing by 50 percent the generation of 30 harmful chemicals found in hazardous waste.

Consumer challenge. “We are challenging all Americans to take a ‘hands on’ approach to helping conserve our precious natural resources,” said Marianne Lamont Horinko, the EPA’s assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response.

“EPA is asking Americans to adopt smart environmental practices, make smart environmental purchases, reuse more products, and recycle at least 1 pound of their household waste a day,” Horinko said. “The results of the Resource Conservation Challenge and the innovative projects will be less waste, more economic growth and greater energy savings and recovery.”

Industry projects. The Resource Conservation Challenge includes 68 projects that the agency selected for their flexibility, innovation and emphasis on public-private partnerships. All of the projects aim to reduce the use of raw materials, reuse waste materials to make new products or generate energy, and cut the generation of toxic wastes.

For example, in one of the projects, the EPA is asking businesses and industry to join a “Waste Minimization Partnership Program” to help achieve the national goal of a 50 percent reduction of 30 chemicals by 2005. These chemicals, such as lead, are among the most harmful to public health and the environment.

In addition to the Resource Conservation Challenge, the EPA is also partnering to test innovative ideas to make the agency’s waste programs more efficient and effective. The initial 12 projects demonstrate approaches to waste minimization, energy recovery, recycling and land revitalization that may be replicated across various industries, communities and regions.

The projects range from making plastics from plant materials, to demonstrating the reuse potential of recycling residential building materials.

For example, one project will develop and solicit designs for reusable packaging for products purchased through the Internet.

Treated wood. To support a phase out of arsenic based wood treatments, announced by the EPA in February, the EPA will fund a pilot project to develop methods of cleaning the equipment at wood preserving facilities to help the industry convert its factories from chromated copper arsenate to less toxic chemicals.

Two projects will look at ways to reuse existing wood projects. The North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention, North Carolina State University (NCSU), U.S. Forest Service, and Land of Sky Regional Council will partner to test ways to convert used wood pallets into new flooring products. The University of Florida’s Center for Construction and Environment will partner will Gainesville Regional Utilities and the city of Gainesville, Florida, to take apart a typical wood framed house, and design ways to reuse its materials in new neighborhood building projects.

The EPA estimates that about 136 million tons of building related construction and demolition wastes are generated in the U.S. every year, of which 92 percent comes from renovations and demolition projects.

The Biomass Energy Conversion Facility at Iowa State University will receive a grant to explore ways of manufacturing bio-based plastics, which could be made from waste food, as well as scrap wood and paper, yard wastes, and other organic wastes.

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