The U.S. recycling system faces many challenges, including reduced markets for recycled materials, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, confusion about what materials can be recycled, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance.

The National Recycling Strategy includes five strategic objectives

Improve markets for recycled commodities through market development, analysis, manufacturing, and research.
Increase collection of recyclable materials and improve recycling infrastructure through analysis, funding, product design, and processing efficiencies.
Reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream through outreach and education to the public on the value of proper recycling.
Enhance policies and programs to support recyclability.
Standardize measurement and increase data collection through coordinated recycling definitions, measures, targets, and performance indicators.

Section 1: Introducing the National Recycling Strategy

I am introducing the National Recycling Strategy, and I am personally committed to achieving these five objectives by engaging key stakeholders to improve the system for generations to come. My Administration has already taken action to improve the recycling system and protect our planet. During the first six months of this administration, we released a first-ever U.S. Recycling Action Plan, the first-ever mandatory recycling standards for certain food and beverage containers, a National Design Guide to improve recycling infrastructure, and, starting this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a series of six-month independent audits of the recycling industries, in an effort to help clean up their practices.

The Five Strategic Objectives

Improve markets for recycled commodities through market development.

EPA will leverage its existing partnerships with key players to improve markets for recycled commodities. An example is the Buy America Recycling Leadership Program, in which EPA helps fund state and local initiatives to develop an American manufactured, manufactured from recycled materials (AMFR) recycling industry.

To achieve the strategy’s objective, EPA and other federal partners will provide technical assistance to states and localities to develop market-driven programs to increase the use of recycled materials.

Improving Market for Recycled Commodities

The National Recycling Strategy identifies four objectives that will encourage market improvements for recycled materials and increase the recycling and recovery of commodities.

Fosters stronger markets by focusing on changes that facilitate the development and market expansion of regional markets. Developing stronger markets will allow more recycled materials to find new markets and reduce waste sent to landfills.

By identifying programs and programs that provide industry with incentives and/or disincentives for the increased use of recycled materials. These will be measured through standardized data collection programs.

Follow the overall trend toward more reuse of materials, reducing the amount of material sent to landfills.

Increasing Collection of Recyclable Materials

Improving markets for recyclable commodities is an objective of the strategy and involves three broad areas: increasing collection and the delivery of recovered materials to markets, improving the quality of recycled commodities, and developing new markets for recycled commodities. The plan calls for the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of the Treasury to support efforts to increase collection and enable more efficient use of recovered materials. The plan envisions a national system that includes 100 percent recovery of recyclable materials. For recyclables produced at a waste to energy or renewable energy facility, a national goal is set to recycle a minimum of 30 percent by 2025 and at least 80 percent by 2030.

Reducing Contamination in the Recycled Materials Stream

Frequently mixed materials in the recycling stream contaminate recovered materials and affect the end product. In order to make a more robust and marketable product, it is essential to prevent contamination. This includes rigorous controls and the need to raise the performance bar in terms of quality and purity of products. Efforts need to focus on reducing contamination, including behavior changes, curbside recycling, in-container recycling, and return to resource programs.

Strengthening Policy and Programs

The government can play a key role in developing policies and programs to increase recycling and reduce contamination.

Standardizing Measurement and Data Collection

There are currently three major data collection systems that help determine national recycling levels. They are the Zero Waste Facility Inspection Program (NWFP), the National Surveys of Recycling Infrastructure (NSRI), and the U.S. Consumer Confidence in Recycling Index (CIRCI). NWFP was designed to enhance the federal government’s authority to inspect recycling facilities to ensure they were meeting accepted practices for recycling and were, in many cases, also meeting regulatory requirements for treatment and disposal of materials. This program was designed to give the federal government a clearer and more informed picture of recycling system performance and to ensure federal recycling standards were being met by waste generators and material handlers.


The U.S. recycling system faces many challenges, including reduced markets for recycled materials, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, confusion about what materials can be recycled, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance.

To address these challenges, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with stakeholders to develop a recyclable materials supply chain strategy. This strategy explores the needed policy and market changes to improve recycling system performance and assesses the current recycling infrastructure in the United States. The strategy also establishes actionable steps that EPA and other organizations will take to work together to improve the U.S. recycling system.