Skip to Main Content

Recycling and Sustainability: US EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA: Environmental Protection Agency - The mission of the EPA "is to protect Human Health and the Environment."

EPA works to ensure that:

  • Americans have clean air, land and water;
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information;
  • Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are administered and enforced fairly, effectively and as Congress intended;
  • Environmental stewardship is integral to U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • All parts of society--communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments--have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • Contaminated lands and toxic sites are cleaned up by potentially responsible parties and revitalized; and
  • Chemicals in the marketplace are reviewed for safety.


Recycling  Refers to the series of activities by which discarded materials are collected, sorted, processed, and converted into raw materials and used in the production of new products. Excludes the use of these materials as a fuel substitute or for energy production. (National Recycling Coalition, 1995) - From
‚ÄčMeasuring Recycling Guidance Glossary

A simple keyword search on this Agency's internal search engine for "recycling" returns 11,000 hits.  Some topics included are: solid and hazardous wastes, aerosol cans, electronics, florescent products, etc.

When preparing to do a search on this site, click on the tab "Environmental Topics" on the main page to assist you in narrowing your topic.


Sustainability  A popular definition is "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development marries two important themes: that economic development must be ecologically viable now and in the long run, and that environmental protection does not preclude economic development. -  From Top Green Home Terms 


Sustainable Management of Food

United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal

The EPA estimated that in 2015 in the United States, more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash, at 22 percent of the amount landfilled and at 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery. Reducing food waste will help the United States address climate change, as 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills. By keeping wholesome and nutritious food in our communities and out of our landfills, we can help address the 42 million Americans that live in food insecure households.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Learn how reducing, reusing, and recycling can help you, your community, and the environment by saving money, energy, and natural resources. Recycling programs are managed at the state and local level—find information on recycling in your community.

Topics in this section include:

  • Reduce and Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Used Electronics
  • Reducing Wasted Food
  • What You Can Do
  • Students and Educators

How do I recycle...

Learn About Sustainability

Locate the Search box at the top of the home EPA webpage.  Do a search for the term "sustainability.  Almost 48,000 hits will be returned.  You will probably want to think about ways in which you can limit your results by adding keywords that are of particular interest to you.  Some of the topics returned will include: 

  • Sustainability and Sustainable Development,
  • Sustainable Management of Food, and
  • How Does the EPA Promote Sustainability?



Recycling Basics

On this page, you will find basic information on:

  • The Benefits of Recycling
  • Steps tp Recycling Materials
  • Recycling Creates Jobs

Check out "Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling,"  Also take a look at the informative Infographic on this topic that is presented on this page.  (It is too large to reproduce in this guide.)

Laws and Regulations

Take a look at the topics on this page in order to get an overview of the scope of the work done by the EPA.  It's about more than recycling!

Advancing Sustainable Materials Management

Facts and Figures Report

Each year EPA releases the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Fact Sheet, formerly called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. It includes information on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling.

National Overview

EPA is ... thinking beyond waste, and we have transitioned from focusing on waste management to focusing on Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), which refers to the use and reuse of materials across their entire life cycle. SMM conserves resources, reduces waste and minimizes the environmental impacts of materials we use. In an era of limited resources, the sustainable management of natural capital is increasingly at the forefront of international dialogue about how to achieve economic growth without compromising human health and the environment.