16 November 2016 by Tom Goulding

Obama calls for ‘renewed commitment’ to recycling

Outgoing President of the United States of America Barack Obama has outlined his vision for recycling in the country – which has plateaued at around 34%.

Issuing a proclamation on ‘America Recycles Day’ – the country’s recycling awareness day yesterday (15 November), the President said it was time for the country to “renew its commitment” to reduce waste and conserve resources.

US President Barack Obama wants to raise awareness of recycling in the country

US President Barack Obama wants to raise awareness of recycling in the country

In the latest data released by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was revealed that the USA recycled or composted 34.6% of municipal solid waste in 2014 – equivalent to around 89 million tonnes.

Of this, over 28% consisted of food waste and garden waste, 26% paper and cardboard, and around 13% plastics. Wood and glass streams made up 6% and 4% of recyclables respectively.

In addition, more than 33 million tonnes of municipal waste was sent to energy recovery, while a further 135 million tonnes were landfilled.

The EPA claims that the US national recycling rate has ‘quadrupled’ since 1976 – however rates have largely stagnated since 2010 when the nation first hit a recycling rate of 34%.

‘Awareness’

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Obama observed that more needed to be done to raise awareness of recycling and reduce the environmental impact of waste

He said: “People of all ages can do their part by reducing waste and reusing items. In our homes we can compost food and yard waste rather than sending it to a landfill; in schools we can utilize reusable containers for storing lunches and school supplies; and in workplaces we can print more documents double-sided and on recycled paper, or opt for digital copies rather than printing in the first place.

The EPA's table illustrates changing recycling rates in the US from 1960 to 2014

The EPA’s table illustrates changing recycling rates in the US from 1960 to 2014

“The Federal Government is doing our part to lead by example — from helping businesses purchase recycled materials to assisting grocery stores, schools, and stadiums with reducing their food waste, we are striving to give businesses, States, and local governments the resources they need to encourage recycling across our Nation.

“One of the most important things we can do with our time on Earth is to make it better for future generations. On America Recycles Day, we renew our commitment to making environmentally conscious changes in our lives so that our children and grandchildren can live that better, cleaner future.”

The President added: “I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities, and I encourage all Americans to continue their reducing, reusing, and recycling efforts throughout the year.”

US citizens took part in the 'Ready, Set, Sort' game as part of America Recycles Day

US citizens took part in the ‘Ready, Set, Sort’ game as part of America Recycles Day

Trump

Mr Obama’s comments follow last week’s US Presidential Election, in which Republican Party nominee Donald Trump was voted into office.

While it is unclear what stance Mr Trump will take on environmental policy when he enters the White House in January, the president-elect has publically acknowledged his scepticism towards issues such as climate change.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump appointed Myron Ebell to lead the EPA, who has also in the past taken a stance as a climate change sceptic.

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