Set Of Three Colorful Recycling Bins
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Federal Recycling Laws: Explained

In 2018 alone, the generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) totaled 292.4 million tons. Of that amount, only 69 million tons were directly recycled, with 146 million tons sent to landfills. Combine that with figures from previous years, and we have a very clear waste problem.

Over time, the government has worked to limit waste numbers by establishing waste regulations on a federal and local level. Staying on top of these regulations can sometimes be difficult, especially for businesses producing a lot of waste.

In this resource, we’ll cover mandatory recycling laws at the federal level so that you can ensure compliance in your waste management. 

Mandatory Recycling Laws and Management in the United States

The United States government has mainly depended on local and state governments to enact their own waste management and recycling laws.

Typically, these regulations come under two categories: 

  • Landfill bans
  • Recycling goals 

Landfill bans make discarding materials such as yard waste, oil, and other collectibles at landfills illegal. States that have implemented landfill bans include:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina 
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

States like Illinois and California are also championing more targeted recycling initiatives by adopting measures such as the bottle bill. Additionally, 25 states have passed laws targeting electronic waste recycling specifically, and mandating the recycling of electronics. These states, which make up over 65% of America’s population, are already making concerted moves to ensure that the U.S. is on the right path towards recycling.

Federal Recycling Laws and Frameworks in the United States

While the United States government does not directly regulate waste, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed federal recycling laws through what is known as the Resource Conservation and Recover (RCRA)

According to the EPA, “RCRA establishes the framework for a national system of solid waste control.”

The RCRA authorizes the EPA to enforce federal hazardous waste regulations where states may not have federal recycling laws in place. This includes the generation, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposal of solid waste.

Through the RCRA, the EPA develops policies that ensure safe waste management for disposal or recycling processes. 

There are two main sections of the RCRA that outline its core regulations. 

  • Subtitle C of the Act: This section is focused on solid hazardous waste. The EPA has developed a program to ensure that the waste is properly managed from the moment it is generated to when it is recycled or disposed of (cradle-to-grave). The EPA also tasked states to implement programs pertaining to hazardous waste management. If a state doesn’t have a program running for hazardous waste, the EPA will step in to set up a program. 
  • Subtitle D of the Act: This section is centered on non-hazardous solid waste (crop waste, batteries, wood, glass, asphalt, latex, medical waste, etc.). This section places a ban on open dumping of waste. It also lays out the requirements for the operation of industrial landfills and municipal waste. This addresses the design specifications, location siting, remediation action, and closure of landfill sites. 

Throughout this waste regulation process, the general public also has a say in how the RCRA works. Active participation through comments on the treatment, waste storage, and disposal facilities can help the RCRA and EPA do their jobs better. 

Maintaining Compliance with Federal Recycling Laws

What does all of this mean for you and your business? For one, it’s important to understand that any federal recycling laws or local regulations for waste management are going to be constantly changing.

To stay ahead and meet compliance, you and your business need a system to track your waste production and management. Rubicon RegWatch™ allows you to practice proper environmental compliance and build a sustainable relationship with your customers, vendors, and your community.

RegWatch provides insights into local, state, and federal waste management regulations and reveals how it pertains to your business. All in real-time.

Save costs and lead your business towards a greener future with Rubicon’s Regwatch™. Learn more and schedule a demo today.

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