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The statutory standard-bearer for waste handling, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, is nearing its 40th anniversary in October amid an ever-changing materials management landscape, and both the Environmental Protection Agency and states across the country are quick to shower praise on what the statute and its programs have accomplished.

The EPA applauds the law for boosting innovative business activities involving waste treatment, storage, disposal and recycling through its “cradle to grave” regulations. Many government officials and local stakeholders take pride in the program on contamination safeguards designed to protect populations and prevent Superfund cleanup taxpayer burdens.

“Where RCRA was, and frankly before RCRA, was tremendous mismanagement of hazardous waste, having tremendous impacts on the environment [and] public health,” Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management, told Bloomberg BNA during an April interview at the EPA headquarters in Washington D.C.

“You had, you know, basically hazardous waste thrown out in the back 40 and lagoons.” The term “back 40” refers to remote acreage at industrial locations.

RCRA regulations are sprawling and pinpointing shortcomings is a heavy lift.

But in interviews with Bloomberg BNA, state waste officials criticized federal funding cuts and a weak vision for cleaner materials management under RCRA amid new EPA rulemaking and an ongoing drive for increased recycling.

Brian Dabbs has the special report on the issue for Bloomberg BNA subscribers in States Regret RCRA Cuts, Explore Vision of Program.