Waste Recycling Goals

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Waste Recycling


  • Define terms related to waste reduction
  • Hazardous waste recycling
  • Discuss advantages associated with waste reduction and recycling.
  • Discuss recycling of specific MSW components
  • Discuss ways to increase recycling


  • Reduction: Reduction in generation, reduction in amount of material, increase lifetime, or eliminate the need
  • Recycle - used, reused, or reclaimed, use of the material as a source raw material, involves physical transformation
    • Reused: The direct use or reuse of a secondary material without prior reclamation
    • Reclaimed: regeneration of wastes or recovery of usable materials from wastes (e.g., regenerating spent solvents in a solvent still). Wastes are regenerated when they are processed to remove contaminants in a way that restores them to their usable condition materials that must be reclaimed/recycled prior to use or reuse
  • Recovery - Process to recover useful material from mixed waste (energy is an example)

Hazardous waste materials that are recycled may be:

  • Excluded from the definition of solid waste and fall out of RCRA altogether;
  • Subject to less-stringent regulatory controls; or
  • Required to comply with the full universe of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal regulations.

Inherently waste-like materials

  • The following materials are solid wastes when they are recycled in any manner:
  • (1) Hazardous Waste Nos. F020, F021 (unless used as an ingredient to make a product at the site of generation), F022, F023, F026, and F028.
  • (2) Secondary materials fed to a halogen acid furnace that exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste or are listed as a hazardous waste

Materials are solid wastes (and potentially hazardous waste) if they are recycled in the following ways:

  • Used in a manner constituting disposal - Directly placing wastes or products containing wastes on the land is considered to be use constituting disposal.
    • If, however, direct placement on the land is consistent with its normal use (e.g., pesticides), then the material is not regulated as a solid waste.
    • For example, heptachlor can potentially be a P-listed waste. This pesticide is not regulated as a solid waste, however, when it isused as a pesticide.
  • Burned for energy recovery
  • Reclaimed (with some exceptions) - materials that must be reclaimed/ recycled prior to use or reuse
  • Accumulated speculatively

Materials that are not solid waste (and therefore not hazardous wastes) when recycled:

  • (i) Used or reused as ingredients in an industrial process to make a product, provided the materials are not being reclaimed; or
  • (ii) Used or reused as effective substitutes for commercial products; or
  • (iii) Returned to the original process from which they are generated, without first being reclaimed or land disposed.

Materials Subject to Less Stringent Standards

  • Universal Waste regulations include batteries, pesticides, lamps (e.g., fluorescent bulbs), and mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats) (see 40 CFR Part 273).
  • Used Oil includes petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has been used (see 40 CFR Part 279 ).
  • Waste-Derived Fertilizers (e.g., zinc fertilizer products) and Other Materials Used in a Manner Constituting Disposal (see 40 CFR Part 266 Subpart C).
  • Materials Utilized for Precious Metal Recovery (see 40 CFR Part 266 Subpart F).
  • Spent Lead-Acid Batteries (see 40 CFR Part 266 Subpart G - note that lead-acid batteries may also be managed as a Universal Waste).
  • Hazardous Waste Burned in Boilers and Industrial Furnaces

Recycling Advantages

  • Prevents the emission of many greenhouse gases and water pollutants,
  • Saves energy,
  • Supplies valuable raw materials to industry,
  • Creates jobs,
  • Stimulates the development of greener technologies,
  • Conserves resources for our children’s future, and
  • Reduces the need for new landfills and combustors.

MSW Recycling Goals

  • 25% by 1995 (was met)
  • 30% by 2000 (was met)
  • 35% by 2005 (not met)

Recycling Challenges

  • Location of wastes (9000 curbside programs)
  • Uncertainty of supply
  • Administrative and institutional constraints
  • Legal restrictions
  • Uncertain markets
  • Technical challenges to recycling
  • Changes in materials (i.e. light weighting)
  • Too many items in waste
  • Actually encourages waste production (because recycling will take care of it)

SWANA Recommendations to Increase Reduction/Recovery

  • Encourage more extensive product stewardship by product designers, manufacturers retailers, and consumers
  • Expand efforts by federal, state, and provincial governments to develop markets for recycled materials and recovered energy
  • Provide financial incentives for investments in recycling, composting and the use of recovered materials

SWANA Recommendations to Increase Reduction/Recovery

  • Include WTE and conversion technologies in renewable portfolio standards and green power programs
  • Encourage the recovery and use of landfill gas by maintaining federal tax credits and through renewable portfolio standards and green power programs
  • Support technology transfer and research efforts that have the potential to increase waste recovery rates
  • Commodity
  • % of MSW Recycled
  • Paper and Paperboard
  • 48.1
  • Steel
  • 36.4
  • Aluminum
  • 21.4
  • Glass
  • 18.8
  • Plastics
  • 5.2

Paper Recycling

  • Problems
    • Chlorination produces dioxins/furans
    • Inks are petrochemical based
    • Acid used to break fibers shortens life
    • Coating of high gloss paper
    • Demand for high quality paper
    • Glues, laminates, plastics, inks not water soluble
    • Paper can only be reused 4-12 times, always need a virgin source

Paper Recycling

  • ~ 50% of consumed material and growing
  • Goal 55% by 2012
  • Strong markets for old corrugated cardboard (OCC) and newsprint (ONP)
  • Expanding domestic and international demand
  • Office paper lower demand

Steel Recycling

  • Expanding economy – increased steel demands; China and India biggest markets
  • 36.4% of steel is recycled
  • Use of plastic for automobiles is a problem
  • One ton steel recycled saves 2500 lb of iron ore, 1000 lb of coal, 40 lb of limestone, and significant energy savings

Aluminum Recycling

  • About 51 percent of aluminum cans is being recycled
  • Twenty years ago it took 19 aluminum cans to make one pound, but today, aluminum beverage cans are lighter and it takes 29 cans to make a pound.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
  • Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy and 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.
  • Domestic recycling has declined recently, collection is expensive

Glass Recycling

  • Glass always lags other recyclables
  • Alternative markets needed – grind for construction fill, “glassphalt,” fiberglass
  • Transportation of heavy glass is expensive
  • Raw materials are inexpensive
  • Contamination is an issue
  • Reuse used to be common practice; however as manufacturing plants became larger and decreased in number, bottles had to be carried further for refilling.
  • More colored glass is imported than used domestically

Plastic Recycling

  • Problems
    • Light weight, bulky, low density
    • Wide variety of polymers
    • Concerns over contamination for reuse
    • Difficult to differentiate among types

Plastic Recycling

  • PET and HDPE have high prices due to domestic and international demand
  • Curbside recycling is down, driving prices up
  • More expensive oil prices makes virgin plastic more expensive

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  • Last updated July 2008 by Dr. Reinhart

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