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Departments - Legislation & Regulations

July 5, 2001

Several national and state recycling organizations—as well as businesses—are taking measures to celebrate November 15 as America Recycles Day.

Organizers of activities in several states are hopeful that 1999 events can be as successful as some of those that took place in 1998, such as:

• The collection of 2.15 million pledges supporting America Recycles Day, which were also used as contest entries for the giving away of the “American Green Dream House.”

• In Madison, Wisc., 20 tons of computers were collected for recycling, while 14 tons were collected in Stamford, Conn.

• More than 120,000 square yards of carpeting were collected for recycling at Mutual of Omaha headquarters in Nebraska.

• After publicizing America Recycles Day, recycling program coordinators in Utah saw their collection rates rise 12% just after November 15, while coordinators in Rhode Island recorded a 9.5% increase.

The awarding of prizes will again be used to gain attention for America Recycles Day, with another American Green Dream House being the top prize for those who send in pledge cards.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, points out the scrap metal industry’s deep recycling roots in its America Recycles Day literature. “Although recycling is viewed as a recent phenomenon, U.S. scrap recycling companies have been reclaiming industrial byproducts and used and obsolete items and preparing them for reuse since the colonial period,” ISRI notes.

From those origins, ISRI notes, recycling in America has evolved into an industry that processed 70 million tons of scrap iron and steel last year, 45 million tons of paper, nine million tons of scrap glass, five million tons of scrap aluminum, two million tons of scrap copper and 700,000 tons of scrap plastic.


Rules requiring large companies and government agencies to either recycle or throw away fluorescent light bulbs in designated hazardous-waste landfills were approved by the U.S. EPA in July. About 600 million bulbs are estimated to be thrown out each year. The new rule is aimed at making the recycling of the bulbs easier and less expensive.

Under the new rule, strict tracking and transportation rules for light bulbs destined for recycling would be loosened, while bulbs and tubes heading for landfills would continue to be closely tracked. The recently formed Association of Lighting and Mercury Recycling, Calistoga, Calif., has promoted and is in favor of the new regulations. The ruling covers mercury-containing fluorescent, mercury vapor, sodium vapor and metal halide lamps along with other mercury items.


Automobiles rank among the most frequently recycled consumer products, with an average recycling rate of about 98%. A recent survey found that an increasing number of North Americans are finally beginning to realize that automobiles are the most commonly recycled product.

“For years, research has indicated that people mistakenly perceived aluminum beverage cans and newspapers as being the most recycled consumer products,” says Bill Heenan, president of the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), Pittsburgh.

Most cars reaching the end of their life cycle are comprised of two-thirds steel and iron, with that portion as well as other metallic components being nearly 100% recyclable.

In the most recent survey conducted by SRI, 20% of those responding cited automobiles as the most recycled product. That is double the percentage from a 1997 survey, though it still leaves room for improvement.


A Reno, Nev., company has introduced a product that encourages the reuse of plastic grocery sacks. The SacSaver has been designed to hold plastic bags securely in place and to stay open to act as a trash receptacle. According to SacSaver chairman and CEO Michael Nelson, the $4.99 product prevents problems such as bags slipping and incompatibility between container size and bag size. Plastic bags are used by about 80% of the American population at the check out counter, according to Nelson. While some grocery stores do accept bags back for recycling, re-use is also an option practiced by many households.