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Recycling

Legislation

Legislation has a powerful role to play in encouraging or creating both a supply of recyclables and a market for recycled goods. For example, places with legislation mandating a deposit-refund system for containers (such as soda bottles) have acted to increase the supply of recyclable material. This sort of legislation requires that consumers pay a deposit for each container of soda, beer, or other beverage that they buy from retailers, and later obtain a refund of their deposit when they return the container for reuse or recycling.

Bans on the disposal of certain materials are another useful method for diverting waste from landfills and incinerators, and thereby increasing the availability of recyclable materials. Bans are a controversial approach, but they can be successful in prompting consumers to participate in recycling programs. Items that are commonly banned from disposal sites include lead-acid automobile batteries, tires, yard trimmings, and used motor oil.

Curbside collection of recyclable household wastes in Livonia, Michigan. This municipality, and many others, mandates the recycling of glass, newsprint, steel cans, and certain kinds of plastics. Recyclable wastes are collected in bins provided by the city and placed outside for pickup. Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission.

Other kinds of laws can also help increase the demand for products manufactured from recycled materials. Some states require that more than a certain percentage of product be comprised of recycled material. This mandate has helped to save newspaper recycling programs, which were collapsing in the 1980s. A number of states (including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia require a minimum content of recycled fiber in newspapers printed within their jurisdiction.

Some government agencies require that labels list the environmental benefits of certain kinds of products, including their content of recycled materials. This gives consumers an opportunity to use information about environmental issues before making an informed decision to purchase particular goods.


Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusRecycling - Process, Legislation, Policies, Recycling Collection Programs, Recyclable Materials, Composting, Preparing The Compost