Expanded Waste Report Would Encourage Recycling of Industrial Materials, Groups Say

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By Avery Fellow

Including construction and demolition materials in the annual federal report tracking the amount of solid waste generated in the United States would encourage recycling and reuse of these materials, recycling companies, state officials, and academic experts said.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering adding construction and demolition materials, industrial materials, and automotive waste to the report to provide a more comprehensive view of the waste stream in the United States.

“The more expansive EPA's data gathering and annual tracking, the more influence the Agency will have in incentivizing beneficial use,” Waste Management Inc., a waste removal and recycling company, wrote in comments on the proposal posted Sept. 27. The company supports including construction and demolition materials in the report.

EPA said Aug. 2 it may begin including nonhazardous industrial materials in its report measuring the total amount of municipal solid waste generated in the United States. The current EPA report, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, focuses on materials commonly disposed of by households and commercial establishments, such as paper, glass, metal, and plastic (148 DEN A-5, 8/2/11).

“It is important for recyclers and industries to have an accurate picture of the solid waste landscape so that they can better evaluate available waste streams and identify underutilized opportunities for beneficial uses,” said James Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, in comments dated Sept. 30.

If nonhazardous industrial wastes were included in the report, manufacturing companies would be more likely to convert their waste streams into materials used by other companies, or to use locally generated waste materials instead of purchased raw materials, Joseph Fiksel, executive director of the Center for Resilience at Ohio State University, wrote in comments dated Aug. 26.

Reporting Requirements

EPA also said it may take another measurement approach in preparing the report. Currently, EPA relies heavily on modeling to estimate the amount of materials in the municipal waste stream.

Samantha MacBride, adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, recommended in comments dated Sept. 9 that EPA survey nonhazardous industrial waste generators or require biennial reporting.

Larry Christley, planning and financial assistance manager at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said he favored mandatory reporting requirements in comments dated Sept. 14, as well as directly surveying local landfills.

Waste Management recommended that EPA use data from local governments and processors and end-market users of recycled material, in addition to data from trade associations.

Concern Over Reporting

Derek Swick, senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, said in comments Sept. 28 the organization does not support adding nonhazardous industrial wastes to the report, citing concerns about additional reporting requirements. The organization said EPA should only collect specific data on nonhazardous waste related to regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, not “just for the sake of the report.”

Strategic Materials Inc., a recycling company, also asked EPA not to include construction and demolition waste, saying that it was already difficult to obtain consistent data on materials in the existing report.

Under current recycling guidelines, for example, recycled glass containing shredded paper, metals, and plastic is considered the same as residue-free recycled glass. EPA should improve the consistency of data for materials currently included in the report before adding materials, the company said in comments dated Sept. 20.


Comments on EPA's proposal to include construction and demolition materials in the municipal solid waste report are available at www.regulations.gov under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2011-0178.