Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports and promotes the 3 Rs, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, their focus has also included a fourth “R”….Rethink.
A program developed by the EPA called the Sustainable Materials Management Program (SMM) encourages consumers to “Think Beyond Waste”. This philosophy doesn’t just mean making good decisions after the usefulness of a product has been exhausted, which is said to be the end of the product’s life cycle. Options at this time include recycling, composting, energy recovery, and landfilling.
It also refers to sustainable materials management, which is the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable way across their entire life cycle. Sustainable materials management conserves resources, reduces waste, slows climate change, and minimizes the environmental impacts of the materials we use.
The facets of SMM include:
Food Recovery Challenge – The EPA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have joined efforts to educate consumers about the impact that excessive food waste has on our environment. In this program, grocers, schools, and sports stadiums are committing to reducing the environmental impact of wasted food in landfills through smart purchasing and surplus food diversion.
Electronics Challenge - "Today, the average American household uses about 24 electronic products like personal computers, mobile phones, televisions, and e-readers. With an ever- increasing supply of new electronic gadgets, Americans discard more than 2 million tons of obsolete electronic products annually".
One way EPA is addressing this growing number of unwanted electronics is through the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge. By participating in the Challenge, manufacturers and retailers are promoting responsible electronics recycling.
The number of electronics being collected is increasing, sending 100 percent of their used electronics to a recognized third-party certified recycler by the third year of their participation, and publicly reporting this information.
Federal Green Challenge - This challenges the EPA and other federal agencies throughout the country to lead by example and reduce the Federal Government’s environmental impact.
The Federal Green Challenge is a national effort challenging the EPA and other federal agencies throughout the country to lead by example in reducing the Federal Government's environmental impact.
Federal offices or facilities start their participation by selecting a minimum of two of the six target areas; waste, electronics, purchasing, energy, water, or transportation. At least one of the selected target areas must be waste, electronics, or purchasing. Members commit to an improvement goal of at least 5 percent per year in their selected target areas.
Following the EPA's example and challenging ourselves to begin following their lead will create a more sustainable future. For more information on recycling and sustainability visit www.wasteawaygroup.com.