EPA Sets New Recycling Guidelines

April 1, 2000

5 Min Read
EPA Sets New Recycling Guidelines

Bradley Jacobsen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., established in mid-January final guidelines for government agencies, municipalities and contractors to purchase 18 additional items that are or can be made with recycled materials.

This measure amends the EPA's 1995 Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG), designating federally funded agencies and contractors to buy products "made of the highest percentage of recovered materials ... and items whose price exceeds $10,000," the docket states.

"This action should create demand from the waste industry for raw materials in end-use markets, and it ensures that there are markets for those materials in curbside programs," says Terry Griss, EPA environmental protection specialist.

The ruling will affect 35 federal agencies, 56 states and territories, 1,900 local governments, and about 1,000 contractors. According to the document, the EPA an-ticipates the guidelines will "result in expanding and strengthening markets for additional materials diverted or recovered through public and private collection programs ... and spur private sector development of new technologies."

Large and small businesses that supply recovered material to manufacturers and adapt or sell their product lines to agencies will profit. Municipalities that run recycling programs also are expected to benefit.

Further, the action is expected to reduce energy use, air and water pollutants, greenhouse gases and the need for natural resources. According to the order, air pollution reductions near 25 percent have been associated with glass manufactured from recovered materials. Additionally, reductions in water pollutants from steel could reach 75 percent and and aluminum could reach 95 percent.

The EPA's Economic Impact Analysis report estimates 10-year annual costs will range from $7.6 million to $14.8 million. Cost uncertainty reportedly will derive from annually fluctuating labor rates and product purchase estimates for each agency.

A 1998 Executive Order (13101) requires the EPA to designate items in a CPG, which recommends recovered materials' content levels for selected items based on "economic and technological feasibility and performance, impact of government procurement, availability and competition, and other uses for recovered materials."

"The EPA looks at industry info, we look at items government agencies buy yearly, how much they buy, what it is used for, and the recycled content," Griss explains. The order further requires the EPA "to update the list of items every two years, but we intend to update it annually," he says.

New EPA products listed include carpet cushion, flowable fill, railroad-grade crossing surfaces, park benches and picnic tables, playground equipment, food waste compost, plastic lumber, landscaping timber and posts, solid plastic binders, plastic clipboards, file folders, clip portfolios, presentation folders, absorbents and adsorbents, industrial drums, awards and plaques, mats, signage, and manual-grade strapping.

Steve Martin, the sanitation director for the city of Conway, Ark., isn't as famous as the Hollywood comedian with the same name, but he's getting more exposure in Conway these days as the host of a cable television public access program. His 30-minute local news show "The Good Light" has been on the air for one year.

"We're trying to do positive, upbeat stuff. We feel the TV news stations are doing negative stuff. We want to focus on people who are doing good things for our community," says Martin, who previously had no "on air" experience.

Each monthly episode features four or five segments, presenting everything including interviews with local politicians and celebrities, tours of manufacturing facilities, and news about the city's automated collection program.

"I just happen to be the sanitation director, and I do this on the side for fun," Martin says.

The show is produced by Conway Multi Media, which is owned and operated by Martin's friend Doug Avra. The idea for the show came to Martin and Avra while they were producing a video to honor the city's outgoing mayor.

Of course, Martin hasn't missed the opportunity to spotlight the sanitation department. One of the earliest shows profiled the department's automated collection system. In that program, Martin told viewers how the automated collection program - complete with 19,000 carts manufactured by Reidsville, N.C.-based Plastic Omnium Zarn - has increased efficiency.

This spring, Martin also plans to feature a segment on the city's landfill, which recently was expanded to include two new cells. He'll discuss how the cells were constructed, the installation of the liner and the project's cost - approximately $350,000 per cell.

The city's curbside recycling program, which serves about 60 percent of Conway's 14,000 residents, should appear in an upcoming episode. The city offers drop-off centers at grocery stores and subdivisions to serve residents who don't yet have access to curbside recycling.

Aside from solid waste topics, Martin has spotlighted local efforts such as the city of Conway Human Developmental Center's Foster Grandparent Program in which participants visit mentally and physically handicapped residents. He also has interviewed Conway native and state Senator Stanley Russ, presented a tour of the Tokusen steel wire factory and showed viewers the city's new central fire station.

The show will continue as long as there are interested viewers, Martin says. "Everything I've heard from the community is positive. They like it and want it to continue," he says. "And, I'm having a great time doing it."

* 266 million non-retreadable and non-repairable tires were discarded by Americans in 1996. That's nearly one scrap tire per person in the United States.

* Unlike aluminum cans, which can be re-made completely from recycled aluminum, new tires cannot be composed entirely of recycled rubber.

* Approximately 700 million to 850 million scrap tires occupy stockpiles in the United States. Recycling eliminates new, illegal tire stockpiles and, eventually, will reduce existing sites.

* Scrap tires are used as a fuel in the cement, pulp and paper industries, and for civil engineering applications, such as fill material for construction projects.

* The growing crumb rubber market expanded from 4 million scrap tires in 1994 to 12 million in 1996. Crumb rubber is made by shredding the rubber from scrap tires into pea-sized to finely ground pieces.

* The running track at the White House is composed of a crumb rubber mix.

Source: R.O.T.A.T.E., a division of Sears Auto Center

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