ZERO WASTE is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.



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PHILADELPHIA, Pa., April 19, 1999 / PRNewswire/ -- Who is responsible for mega landfills, polluting waste incinerators, and the ‘trash wars’ between the states? Environmentalists from Zero Waste America (ZWA) point to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its failure to enforce the State Plan provisions of the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

In 1976, Congress asserted the EPA’s authority over waste management in the United States with the passage of the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The Act required states to develop and implement ‘State Plans’ that would maximize waste reduction and recycling. State Plans should have been submitted to the EPA, approved, and implemented by 1980. That timeline was not met. Since 1981, the State Plan provisions of the Act have been largely ignored.

According to EPA officials, the agency abandoned its legal responsibility to enforce the State Plan provisions of the Solid Waste Disposal Act on the grounds that funding for that portion of the Act was pulled. Lack of funding is not a legitimate excuse to violate the Act, says Lynn Landes, Director of Zero Waste America. "Unfunded mandates are a fact of life, not an excuse to ignore the law," says Landes.

It should be noted that funding was pulled by President Reagan in 1981, one year after the 1980 timeline for implementation of the plans.

The latest information on State Plans in EPA Headquarters files, dated 1987, reports that 25 states have EPA-approved plans, 6 states have EPA-partially approved plans, 12 states have plans adopted and submitted to EPA for review, 10 states have draft plans under review by the State or EPA, and 3 states that have not submitted a plan - Alaska, District of Columbia, and New Mexico.

Even for those states who have an EPA approved-plan, that does not guarantee their plans are in compliance with the Act. Pennsylvania’s EPA-approved plan, Act 101, only prefers recycling over waste disposal, and establishes a goal of 25% recycling. There is no plan that guarantees waste reduction and recycling. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, has a recycling rate of 7%.

Although EPA data indicates that waste disposal has decreased from 1.089 tons per person in 1990 to 0.89 in 1997, this data is unreliable. State reporting to the EPA of waste statistics is voluntary, another violation of the Act, say environmentalists.

NOTE: Since issuing this press release, ZWA has been contacted by an EPA official who asked why we didn't issue a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) to EPA Regional offices regarding the status of state plans. We did not contact the various regions for a specific reason. It is made clear in the Solid Waste Disposal Act that the EPA Administrator is responsible for the State Plan program. Therefore, all the pertinent information should be at EPA headquarters.  The fact that they don't have any information on state plans past 1987 indicates that the EPA Administrator is not overseeing the program, in violation of the Act.


Lynn Landes, Director
Zero Waste America