Waste reduction: Here's what you can do
EPA has kicked off a campaign challenging Americans 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 normally found in hazardous waste.
The Resource Conservation Challenge is a major national effort to find flexible, yet more protective ways to conserve valuable natural resources through waste reduction and energy recovery.
EPA identified 27 organic chemicals and three metals to serve as the highest priorities for waste minimization. These 30 Waste Minimization Priority Chemicals replace the 53 chemicals proposed in the Agency's 1998 Federal Register "Notice of Availability: Draft RCRA Waste Minimization Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) Chemical List."
Twenty-six of the chemicals were proposed in the 1998 Notice. The remaining four chemicals were added as a result of methodology changes made subsequent to the 1998 Notice.
Twenty-seven organic chemicals are included in the list: The organic chemicals included in the above list of 30 Waste Minimization Priority Chemicals were selected following an Agency-wide expert review of scientific information available on these chemicals. EPA experts reviewed scientific information made available to the public in 1998 and scientific information received from commenters in response to the 1998 Notice.
Based on its review, EPA concluded these 27 organic chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). They are currently being generated in industrial waste and are found in soil, sediment, ground water, surface water, air and/or biota as a result of past and present releases. Even when released in very small amounts, they accumulate and can cause environmental problems. Many of these organics are difficult to clean up once they get into the environment, resulting in costly clean-up efforts.
Three metals are included in the list: cadmium, lead and mercury. These metals are known to occur frequently in RCRA regulated industrial wastes, and often "trigger" RCRA's Toxicity Characteristic criteria (which means those waste streams must be managed under RCRA hazardous waste regulations).
EPA is challenging businesses and manufacturers to conserve natural resources by reducing waste and recovering energy. Steps include:
- Reduce waste through reuse and recycling;
- Acquire and create a demand for recycled materials; and
- Purchase products containing recycled materials.
EPA is conducting an intense campaign to educate and inform Americans about waste's tremendous impact on resource and energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
Even though many consumers, businesses, industries and institutions have made impressive waste prevention and reduction efforts, EPA says the U.S. still generates several billion tons of waste annually. "Instead of sending these wastes to landfills and incinerators, we all need to do more to reduce, reuse and recycle," states the agency.