America Recycles Day

Every year, the United States recycles a great celebration—America Recycles Day!  Since 1997, the country has celebrated America Recycles Day to educate citizens about the benefits of recycling and how to recycle.

America Recycles Day is an outgrowth of a similar day created by Texas in 1994.  Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis, working for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, chose November 15 as Texas Recycles Day because it was about six months after Earth Day and lodged between the news-stealing periods around elections and the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  They passed the idea along to the National Recycling Coalition, which organized the first national event in 1997, featuring Vice President Al Gore as the Honorary Chair.  Eventually, the program moved to Keep America Beautiful, one of 16 initiates of that organization.

Each year, the U.S. president proclaims America Recycles Day. In 2017, President Trump included these comments in his statement:

Today, on the 20th anniversary of America Recycles Day, we celebrate Americans whose recycling habits help maintain our global leadership and competitiveness. The rate of recycling in the United States has grown from less than 7 percent in 1960 to more than 34 percent in 2014. Still, materials worth $9 billion are thrown away each year. Rather than throwing away valuable resources, we should return them back into our economy, to rebuild our Nation’s infrastructure and create innovative new products…. In 2007, recycling and reuse activities accounted for 757,000 American jobs and produced $36.6 billion in wages. By reusing and recycling, individuals and communities across our country can do their part to keep our lands beautiful, while also growing American jobs and strengthening our economy.

Recycling station in Athens, Greece (photo by Christos Vittoratos)

Although the proclamation is national, the day’s events are largely grass roots.  In 2017, 1.5 million people participated in about 2000 registered local events, and 73,800 individuals signed the annual pledge to recycle.

Americans take recycling seriously.  Since 1960, the rate at which we recycle municipal waste has increased 18-fold.  According to the EPA, in 2015 the country recycled 68 million tons and composted 23 million tons of municipal solid waste that otherwise would have gone to landfills.  That amounts to about 34% of all municipal solid waste generated, so we still have more progress to make.

For example, many countries recycle a much higher proportion of their waste than the U.S.  Germany leads the world, recycling 56%, with Austria, South Korea and Wales also above half.  The U.S. actually ranks 25th among countries in waste recycling, coming in behind most of Western Europe, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Plastic bottles on their way to recycling facility (photo by Petrecycling)

A global group, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), has taken to calling recycled materials the “seventh resource.”  They claim that the world’s six major natural resources are water, air, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals (needless to say, anyone interested in “renewable” natural resources would object to leaving out soil, plants, animals and all forms of biodiversity, but let’s not worry about that now).  Naming recycled materials as the seventh resource reinforces the idea that we can conserve other resources as substitutes for extracting new resources from the earth, destroying wild lands and consuming energy.  According to BIR, the seventh resource provides 40% of the world’s raw material needs today—and could supply much more.

So, on America Recycles day—and every other day of the year—make sure you do your part to enlarge our seventh resource (or whatever number it is!).

References:

Bureau of International Recycling. Recycling:  The Seventh Resource Manifesto.  Available at:   https://www.globalrecyclingday.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ManifestoFINAL.pdf.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

Environmental Protection Agency.  National Overview:  Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling.  Available at:  https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials#Recycling/Composting.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

Gray, Alex.  2017.  Germany recycles more than any other country.  World Economic Forum, 18 Dec 2017.  Available at:  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/germany-recycles-more-than-any-other-country/.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

Heyn, Beth.  2017.  America Recycles Day 2017:  5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.  Heavy, Nov. 15, 2017.  Available at:  https://heavy.com/news/2017/11/america-recycles-day-2017-facts-ideas-participate/.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

Keep America Beautiful.  America Recycles Day.  Available at:  https://americarecyclesday.org/.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

Watson, Rob.  2017.  The 20th Anniversary and History of America Recycles Day.  SWEEP, November 16, 2017.  Available at:   https://nrra.net/sweep/the-20th-anniversary-and-history-of-america-recycles-day/.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

White House.  2017.  America Recycles Day.  The White House, November 15, 2017.  Available at:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/america-recycles-day/.  Accessed October 26, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

June 1
US Announced Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement (2017)
June 2
Edwin Way Teale, Nature Writer, Born (1899)
June 2
Rodne Galicha, Philippine Environmentalist, Born (1979)
June 3
The World’s First Wilderness Area Established (1924)
June 4
Gaylord Nelson, Politician and Conservationist, Born (1916)
June 5
World Environment Day
June 6
Novarupta Volcano Erupted in Alaska (1912)
June 7
Thomas Malthus Published His Famous Essay (1798)
June 8
Bryce Canyon National Park Created (1923)
June 9
Coral Triangle Day
June 10
E. O. Wilson, Father of Biodiversity, Born (1929)
June 11
Jacques Cousteau, Ocean Explorer, Born (1910)
June 12
Frank Chapman, Creator of the Christmas Bird Count, Born (1864)
June 13
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Born (1944)
June 14
Bramble Cay Melomys Went Extinct (2016)
June 15
Global Wind Day
June 16
Gray Whale Delisted (1994)
June 17
World Day to Combat Desertification
June 18
Alexander Wetmore, Ornithologist and Smithsonian Leader, Born (1866)
June 19
Feast of the Forest, Palawan, Philippines
June 20
Great Barrier Reef Protected (1975)
June 21
World Hydrography Day
June 22
Cuyahoga River Burst into Flames (1969)
June 23
Antarctic Treaty Implemented (1961)
June 24
David McTaggart, Greenpeace Leader, Born (1932)
June 25
David Douglas, Pioneering Botanist, Born (1799)
June 26
United Nations Chartered (1945)
June 27
Tajik National Park Added to World Heritage List (2013)
June 28
Mark Shand, Asian Elephant Conservationist, Born (1951)
June 29
Mesa Verde National Park Created (1906)
June 30
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Created (1940)
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