On November 15, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) announced the publication of the final draft of its new National Recycling Strategy. The strategy was developed with the aim to “tackle major recycling challenges facing the nation and to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective municipal solid waste recycling system.” The strategy is based on achieving five specific objectives:

  • improve markets for recycled commodities through market development, analysis, manufacturing, and research;
  • increase collection of recyclable materials and improve recycling infrastructure through analysis, funding, product design, and processing efficiencies;
  • reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream through outreach and education to the public on the value of proper recycling;
  • enhance policies and programs to support recyclability and recycling through strengthened federal and international coordination, analysis, research on product pricing, and sharing of best practices; and
  • standardize measurement and increase data collection through coordinated recycling definitions, measures, targets, and performance indicators.

A specific target set out within the strategy is to achieve a 50% nationwide recycling rate by 2030. In addition, it is aimed to reduce the health burden on communities living near waste facilities and reduce the climate impacts of managing materials across their life cycles. The EPA says that it will work with stakeholders to develop a plan to implement the strategy over the coming months, and that it will focus on moving forward to implement a circular economy approach to the nation’s materials in the coming years.

The strategy has been met with mixed criticism and acclaim. While industry associations such as the American Chemistry Council identify “significant alignment in what America’s Plastic Makers are calling for,” the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) argues that the focus should instead be on reducing waste rather than increasing recycling. “Recycling is not really the solution to the plastics crisis. Until we have national policies that are actually addressing the expansion of single-use disposable plastics that are driving that crisis, I think it’s likely to continue to mask the true source of the problem.”



US EPA (November, 2021). “National Recycling Strategy.”

US EPA (November, 2021). “National Recycling Strategy: Part one of a series on building a circular economy for all.” (pdf)

Read More

US EPA (November 15, 2021). “EPA Releases Bold National Strategy to Transform Recycling in America.”

Zack Budryk (November 15, 2021). “EPA unveils national recycling plan with goal of 50 percent rate.” The Hill

Tik Root (November 15, 2021). “EPA finalizes its first national recycling strategy.” The Washington Post

Megan Quinn (November 15, 2021). “EPA’s 2030 recycling strategy turns focus to circular economy and environmental justice.” Waste Dive