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Waste Prevention

the words 'waste prevention pays' wrapped around the earth The environmental benefits of recycling are well known.

Many businesses, governments, and households are collecting discards for recycling, and are recovering more materials than ever before. In fact, over one-fifth of the municipal solid waste generated in our country is currently recycled or composted.

Despite progress in recycling, however, Americans are still generating too much waste. Every day, on average, each individual discards about four pounds of material. These discards burden both the environment and our economy.

Even recycling, which adds major economic and environmental benefits, creates economic and environmental costs. The best approach to our solid waste challenge is to cut the creation of waste in the first place.

Waste that is not created does not have to be managed later. That's why waste prevention (reducing and reusing) is the ideal solid waste solution.

Waste prevention involves altering the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount and toxicity of what gets thrown away. Waste prevention is sometimes called source reduction because it reduces or eliminates pollution at the source. Thus, donating an unwanted computer to a charity (rather than setting it out for disposal or recycling its parts) is waste prevention. So is photocopying on both sides of a sheet of paper. Altering material specifications so that fewer hazardous constituents are used in a manufacturing process also is waste prevention. Waste prevention activities help shift the nation's emphasis from pollution cleanup to pollution avoidance.

The Environmental Protection Agency provides several documents on this important program.


Get Adobe Acrobat Some of the documents provided by EPA are Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) files. For more information about PDFs, visit the About PDF page.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
www.epa.gov