American Waste Management and Recycling - DOC
American Waste Management and Recycling document sample
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Talking Trash: Waste and Recycling in New Jersey By Brenda Holzinger, Conservation Chair June 2006 According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American generates about 4½ pounds of waste per day. Although much of this 4½ pounds is recyclable, only about 1 pound actually gets recycled while the remaining 3½ pounds are discarded into the waste stream. As a result, solid waste generation in the United States has nearly tripled since 1960, and Americans currently produce in excess of 230 million tons of trash every year (http://www.solidwastedistrict.com/information/uswaste.html). Although the United States is the biggest trash producer globally, other consumer cultures are feeling the refuse pressure associated with increasing levels of consumption. For example, Canada has a big problem with all the cups people discard after they drink their Tim Hortons coffee. Tim Hortons cups comprised 22% of Nova Scotia’s waste stream in 2005 (http://www.cbc.ca/ns/story/ns-timhortons-trash20050706.html)! In China and other Asian nations, disposable chopsticks have become the object of environmental concern. Not only do they end up in the waste stream, but they are not recyclable and, because they are wood, lead to deforestation and all its accompanying environmental consequences. Japan is criticized because it uses about 25 million pairs of disposable chopsticks annually, and almost all are made from wood originating in other countries. South Korea actually banned the use of disposable chopsticks almost 6 years ago in restaurants over a certain size in an effort to reduce waste (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp- dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A3296-2001Jan30). Globally and locally, waste stream reduction requires concerted action by all. In the United States, citizens must educate themselves about the important issues so that they can pressure government and industry to reduce waste and increase recycling and reuse. Governments at the national, state, county and municipal levels must enact legislation that encourages such action, and citizens must hold their governments responsible for creating a “greener” stream of commerce. One of the most effective ways citizens can demonstrate support or opposition for such government policies is by voting regularly and voicing opinions to elected officials via email, telephone or letter. In fact, when debating the Constitution, the Founding Fathers made clear the crucial role citizens must play in the American government system—citizens must educate themselves so that they can hold government officials accountable for their decisions. Citizens can also hold industry accountable by choosing to buy greener products. Finally, all citizens--including industry and government--must recycle and reuse as much as possible. Recycling in New Jersey is regulated by a mix of national, state, county and municipal laws. The Bureau of Recycling and Planning, within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), leads the state recycling effort by implementing the New Jersey Statewide Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act (MRA). The MRA became part of the New Jersey Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) in 1987. The SWMP has provided the framework for the collection, transportation and disposal of solid waste in New Jersey since it took effect on May 6, 1970 (N.J. Stat. § 13:1E-1, et. seq.) Under the SWMP, each county in the state must develop and implement a comprehensive solid waste management plan that meets the needs of every municipality within its jurisdiction (N.J. Stat. § 13:1E-2). This authority allows counties to determine which materials must be recycled by residential and commercial entities within their boundaries (Please see http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycling/county_recy_list.htm for county specific information). Layered on top of this regulatory structure is a Performance Partnership between the DEP and the EPA, which specifies practices and commitments made by the two agencies to increase recycling and reduce waste. The mission of the Bureau of Recycling and Planning is to recycle at least 65% of waste overall, but specifically, to recycle 50% of NJ’s municipal solid waste (MSW) stream (http://www.sate.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycle/mission.htm). The data for 2003, which is the most recent provided by the DEP, shows that the overall recycling rate for the state was 51.8%, but the MSW rate was only 32%. In fact, 1995 actually marked the highest rate for MSW recycling when it hit 45%. New Jersey is in line with the national average, which according to the EPA, was 30% for MSW recycling in 2003 (http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/pubs/msw05rpt.pdf). Cumberland county had the highest MSW and overall recycling rates in the state at 44.7% and 65% respectively. Gloucester (42.5%), Bergen (42.1%), Cape May (40.8%) and Burlington (40.6%) round out the top 5 for MSW recycling in New Jersey in 2003. Hudson county ranked 21 out of 21 counties with a statewide low MSW rate of only 16.9%, while Hunterdon county ranked lowest for overall recycling with a rate of 31.9%. (Please see http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycle/03munrts.pdf for more details) An effective recycling system includes collecting and removing materials from the waste stream, manufacturing new products using recovered and recycled materials, and the purchase of such products by consumers. Recognizing that successful recycling requires concerted action by government, citizens and industry, the Bureau of Recycling and Planning identifies 4 specific goals: (1) increase demand for recyclable materials and recycled products, (2) increase the supply of high quality secondary materials, (3) maximize the overall efficiency of the recycling infrastructure and (4) further recycling- related job development in the collection, processing and manufacturing sectors. The Bureau works to meet these goals through a combination of business incentives, technical and regulatory assistance, data gathering and analysis, and education and training to recycling professionals throughout the state. In January 2006, for example, New Jersey’s elected leaders took a step to further push conservation in the state by adopting a preference in state contracts for wood and paper products derived from sustainably managed forests whenever possible (January 12, 2006, Chapter 367, 2004 Bill Tracking NJ A.B. 1860). Managing solid waste is a crucial public policy challenge for New Jersey because it is the nation’s most densely populated state with about 8.4 million residents. Predictions put the waste generation level at 33 million tons in 2015 if the state continues forward without further reducing the waste stream and increasing levels of recycling and reuse. That’s less than 10 years! In order to meet this challenge, New Jersey is currently revising, updating and readopting the Statewide Solid Waste Management Plan (SSWMP), which was last reviewed in 1993. A working draft of the new plan was released in December 2005 and is available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycle/swmp/pdf/forward06.pdf. Take a look! Once readopted, the new SSWMP will require all 21 New Jersey counties to revise and readopt their own county solid waste management plans to meet their state mandated recycling goals. In combination, the state and county governments must figure out why recycling in New Jersey has decreased over the last 10 years from its high point in 1995 (60% overall, 45% MSW), and how to reverse the trend. The SSWMP makes numerous suggestions requiring legislative action to assist in reinvigorating New Jersey’s recycling efforts. While the various government entities adopt new plans, we can take action now by rededicating ourselves to recycling, reuse and conservation. Although we still have much room to improve, the data shows that we are reasonably effective in recycling the easy items like paper, metal and yard trimmings. But what about the harder items like disposable batteries, household cleaners and other chemicals, used oil, computers and cell phones? A good resource for locally recycling these and other items is www.earth911.org, which is a comprehensive website with information about recycling centers for all kinds of materials, green shopping, composting, energy/resource conservation, household hazardous waste, and environmental education. In our roles as citizen-consumers, we should educate ourselves about available products and choose to purchase those that contain recycled ingredients even if they are more expensive than the comparable products made without recycled material (For a list of recycled products available in New Jersey, please see http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recyclenj/). For example, next time you need to buy paper for your printer, consider purchasing paper manufactured from 100% recycled materials. In order to offset the higher price of such paper, you could print on both sides of each sheet or dedicate yourself to printing a few less pages each week. Finally, if we reuse things as much as possible rather than dispose them (paper cups vs. reusing glass, for example), we can further conserve resources by reducing the need to manufacture certain products in large supply. Small actions like this accumulate and will have a profound effect on our waste generation and recovery!