Recycling Should Be Influenced By Government Policies

One-hundred eighty million tons of waste is produced each year by the american population. Only thirteen percent is presently being recycled. And more than two thirds of America's landfills have been lost in the last ten years due to fullness (Plastics Recycling-Hearing). Because of our growing waste problem, new government policies should be used to influence recycling. The issues I will cover in this paper are: recycling our garbage crisis, government policies that are being used to influence recycling, and community and state policies in effect.

Although we are not currently in a garbage crisis, we soon will be if nothing is done to minimize our landfills. The E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) has made new guidelines which are currently closing down old landfill sights and making new ones more expensive to create. Garbage that is incinerated lets off toxic fumes into the air. The ashes that are created from burning this waste must be buried in landfills. The ashes from the incinerators and other waste buried in the landfills let off a poisonous gas, methane, into the air. Mercury and other toxic substances seep into the ground from the landfills and poison the ground and any nearby water sources. Although the E.P.A. efforts and regulations have tried to capture the methane gas and help stop leakage, these procedures are not one-hundred percent effective. Recycling has been recognized as a method that can help solve our problem of crowded landfills, limited or scarce resources, and poisonous substances made from incinerators and landfills.

The government recognizes the problem of waste disposal and the need for recycling. Although efforts are already in affect to recycle our waste, the market for recycled products is not very good. To close the recycling loop, the government has exercised its role as a big consumer in the United States to create larger markets for recycled products. When recycled products first came out their prices were high. The government passed "the 1976 Resource Conservation and recovery act (R.C.R.A) which was aimed in part, at prodding federal departments and agencies to recycle and to buy recycled products (National Journal:1115)." So now the prices of recycled goods are more appealing to consumers because they are cheaper and, in most cases, lower than their virgin competitors. This large step made by the government has influenced our nation greatly. Although some people fear that is wrong to force the purchase of higher priced goods in such a fiscal year, others welcome this change. By opening new markets and lowering prices of recycled goods, the government has greatly encouraged the growth of the recycling industry. In effect of this policy, companies nation wide have decided to take a new look at recycling. Some recycled products are lower in cost than virgin ones. The benefit of recycling facilities are profit from selling reprocessed waste which is a free natural resource produced by Americans. And Americans are beginning to see that it is cheaper and safer to recycle their waste than it is to haul it off and bury it.

State governments have tried to control the growing problem of waste disposal in their states. Some have offered grants to start recycling centers, and incentive programs to encourage recycling. A few have made laws to control the waste problem by making the state change to recycling. Communities within these states have started curb-side recycling where garbage is separated by people before pickup. Others have used money made from landfill fees to create recycling centers, and have encouraged incentive programs created by the state. Some communities get the area businesses to recycle their waste and buy recycled goods. This has created growing recycling markets and, in effect, many jobs have been developed, thus encouraging a growing recycling community. Communities in those states with recycling laws are subject to improving the percentage of recycled waste or face tax increases and other penalties. This has forced communities toward creating systems and facilities for recycling their waste. Although these state wide methods work to reduce our garbage crisis, not even half of the states are currently active in these programs.

I agree with congressman Richard Baker's opening statement in the court hearing on plastics recycling. He stated, "At the federal level, we must encourage more waste reduction and offer incentives to make the processing of recycled materials more appealing for business investment." Because of our waste problem the current government policy, although effective, is not enough. We have already proved from the state and community programs in effect that recycling does work and is the answer to our waste disposal problem. But in order to make it work, everyone must be involved. And in for that to happen, government policies must be used to influence a recycling movement. _________________________________________________________________

send a comment to me
Go back to homepage
last update April 26, 1995