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



PHILADELPHIA, Pa., Nov 13, 2000  -- On America Recycles Day, November 15, a few environmental activists are planning to picket the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington D.C.. They want to draw the public's attention to the uncontrolled generation and disposal of waste in the United States.

Americans are generating more waste every year, growing from 340 million tons of mostly municipal waste in 1997, to 390 million tons in 1999 - nearly a 50 million ton increase in two years, according to Biocycle magazine, an industry publication. According to a 1988 report to Congress by EPA, municipal waste may be only 2% of all waste generated. Currently, municipal waste recycling rates are 28-30%.

More alarming, is the amount of foreign waste that may be entering the United States. According to data in Biocycle, since 1997, the 50 states and Washington, D.C., imported 48 millions tons more waste than they exported.

Activists point to three causes for increased waste generation: 1) EPA's refusal to enforce The Solid Waste Disposal Act (1976), 2) unregulated foreign waste imports, and 3) a U.S. population that is growing an average of 2.5 million people, annually.

They specifically accuse the EPA of non-enforcement of "state plan" requirements of The Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976, which required states to develop and implement "state plans" that "maximize" waste reduction and
recycling by 1980. Most states ignored the Act and implemented voluntary recycling programs, instead.

"The United States is sinking under a tidal wave of waste, while the EPA stands by and refuses to enforce the law," says Lynn Landes of Zero Waste America (ZWA), the organizer of the event. 

Officials at EPA have said that they do not enforce the "state plan" requirements of the Act because, they claim, the states have control over waste management. In addition, EPA officials say that President Reagan pulled federal funds to support state plans.

Environmentalists challenge EPA excuses. In the first instance, they cite the Solid Waste Disposal Act, which states, "the problems of waste disposal as set forth above have become a matter national in scope and in concern and necessitate Federal action." Regarding EPA's excuse of "unfunded mandate," Landes responds that it has no basis in law. 

Lynn Landes, Director
(215) 629-3553