EPA: Increased Recycling Reduces Toxin Release

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 2014 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report along with a 2014 TRI Executive Summary, which goes over the general findings more succinctly. It is no secret that commercial and industrial businesses in the U.S. require the use of thousands upon thousands of chemicals to produce the products and provide the services needed to meet public and private demand. While most of these toxic chemicals are sufficiently managed by such facilities, some of them are released into the environment.

The EPA believes it is the right of every resident of the U.S. to know whether and how many toxic chemicals are being released into the environment locally, statewide and regionally. The TRI program tracks how toxic chemicals that may pose health risks are managed. Thousands of productions facilities across the country submit data for the report in 31 chemical categories covering 594 individual chemicals. The submission of this data is facilitated by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA).

25 Billion Lbs. of Waste Managed

p2oIn 2014, TRI reports were submitted by 21,783 facilities. These facilities managed a total for 25.45 billion lbs. of production-related waste through the preferred practiced, which are as follows in descending order of preference: Recycling, Energy Recovery, Treatment and Disposal. Of the waste that was managed, 9.30 billion lbs. (48 percent) was done so through recycling, 3.48 billion lbs. through energy recovery, 8.73 billion lbs. were treated and 3.95 billion lbs. were disposed of or otherwise released.

From 2003 to 2014, the total production-related waste managed by U.S. facilities fell by 4 percent, which is more than 1 billion lbs. During this same period, the amount of toxic chemicals that were disposed of or released decreased by 13 percent. Among the top reasons for this decline are a shift from coal fuel as an energy source and the implementation of additional control technologies at coal power plants.

Decreased Releases Tied to Recycling

An analysis of the EPA TRI data shows that the trend in the decreased amounts of toxic chemicals released into the environment can be attributed to an increase in recycling.

“People have a right to know what chemicals are being produced in their communities and how to find out by accessing the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory on the web,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “The latest data shows that industry is recycling more and more each year, which is good for the economy and for the environment.”

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