The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week released a strategic plan outlining its areas of focus for recycling, source reduction and environmentally minded materials usage over the next seven years.
The document, which has been posted on the website of the National Recycling Coalition, covers the federal agency's aspirations for sustainable materials management for fiscal years 2017 through 2022.
The concept of sustainable materials management (SMM), described by the EPA as "a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles," has in recent years taken a more central role in the EPA's research and reporting on national waste management issues. This year, for instance, the agency changed the name of its annual report on recycling and disposal data to "Advancing Materials Management."
The five-year strategic plan lays out four SMM objectives: decrease the overall amount of materials disposed, reduce materials' environmental impacts (such as greenhouse gas emissions) throughout the material life cycles, increase socio-economic benefits, and increase SMM program capabilities at the state and local level.
The last of those four objectives "involves increasing the per capita quantity and/or quality of recyclables recovered for manufacturing and increasing the number of households with access to organic[s] collection and recycling," the report states.
The report also identifies three focus areas in which the agency sees possibility for moving forward on the four environmental objectives noted above.
The first focus area is characterized as the "built environment" and includes construction and demolition (C&D) materials as well as disaster debris and architectural planning. The second focus area is sustainable food management, a realm in which the agency has been particularly active of late. The third area outlined is sustainable packaging – in discussing this point, the report notes a number of anticipated outcomes by 2022, including increased per capita quantity of recyclables collected and increased quality in recyclables moving into the secondary market.