The EPA's Municipal Solid Waste Characterization Report, which analyzes, "among other things, the amounts of MSW recycled, incinerated and landfilled," has used the same methodology since the 1960s.
Last year, in recognition of the fact that this report was being used by a wide range of entities (governments, NGOs, academia, industry and the public) for complex purposes, "some of which were not anticipated or designed for in the original Report and methodology," the EPA asked for stakeholder input to help guide revisions to the report.
By revising the report, the EPA hopes to meet a growing need for “more holistic assessment of how materials are generated, used and managed in the U.S. economy.” Mathy Stanislaus, the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the EPA, characterized the changes they envision for the report as part of a shift from emphasizing waste management to focusing on sustainable materials management.
To help them accomplish this transformation, the EPA asked for commenters to focus on three areas:
- Usage of the report
- How do you use the report?
- What decisions or actions have you taken or plan to take based upon this report?
- What do you like and dislike about the report?
- How would you improve it?
- What suggestions do you have for data collection methods? What has worked and not worked in data collection methods that you have used?
- Scope of the report
- What materials should be included in the report?
- What are the most useful sources of data for these materials?
- Who should provide data?
- What primary materials terminology is used in your field? Include definitions.
- Measurement methodology
- What types of data gathering and analyses are likely to be most accurate and lead to clearly understandable results?
- Are the voluntary recycling standards and definitions established by the EPA in 1997 applicable or useful today? Why or why not?
- If an open source, transparent web-based data collection tool could be created, would you use it?
- How practical and economical would such a system be?
- In determining the measurement of materials throughout their entire life cycle from resource extraction, material processing, product design and manufacturing, product use, collection and processing, to disposal:
--What data collection would be needed?
--What kind of measurement methodology and tools are necessary?
--What reporting framework would support your programmatic efforts?
The comment period ended in September of last year, and the EPA is currently evaluating the stakeholder comments and planning the gradual revision of its methodology to incorporate the feedback it received.
Still, many in the industry don't believe that the EPA alone will provide them with data that is robust enough to increase the amount of recyclable material used in manufacturing processes. As a result, new legislation has been drafted to address this issue.
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