by Betty Martin
HOUSTON, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Faced with an inadequate recycling rate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making efforts to boost its popularity among Americans.
In 2012, the most recent EPA count available, Americans generated about 250 million tons of waste from homes or businesses. Of that amount, 87 million tons was recycled or composted, meaning about 35 percent of the U.S. population are reusing or composting their solid waste.
An EPA spokesperson who declined to be named explained to Xinhua that the majority of material not recycled ends up in solid waste landfills.
There have been repeated EPA campaigns to encourage Americans throughout the country to be environmentally friendly when throwing away their garbage.
While the EPA does not make comparisons with the solid waste management programs in other countries, other studies have shown that the U.S. falls behind globally, most notably with Japan where about 50 percent of solid waste is recycled.
To address the problem, the EPA has initiated several programs.
"Currently, EPA has three programs under the Sustainable Materials Management program to encourage the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable way across their entire life cycle," the spokesman said.
The three programs span from reducing food waste to promoting electronics recycling.
The spokesperson said many communities have installed curbside recycling and trash collection for consumers, while most large businesses, such as stores and other institutions, pay for recycling and collection through a private hauler.
Many communities, local governments and states hold special collection events for items that are not particularly easy to recycle, such as paints, electronics and batteries.
"These events ensure that these hard-to-recycle items are handled safely and that the materials that make up these products are put to their best possible use before being landfilled," the spokesperson said.
For businesses and industries that produce hazardous waste, the EPA has specific regulations that must be followed. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the nation's primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste.
The RCRA's hazardous waste program establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal, "in effect, from cradle to grave," the spokesperson said, adding that there are punishments in place to motivate companies to follow the rules.
"Under the statute, violations of RCRA hazardous waste regulations are subject to both civil and criminal enforcement actions. For civil violations, the statute provides for maximum daily penalties, per violation, of 25,000 (U.S. dollars) which has been increased over time for inflation," the spokesperson said. "Criminal violations may result in even more significant fines, imprisonment, or both."
The EPA website has also created special pages for children to show how students of all ages can be involved. Activities include community service projects, science fairs and several EPA-sponsored awards and contests.
"The EPA provides free educational materials for children on a number of environmental issues, as well as grants and training for educators," the spokesperson said.