America Recycles Day celebrated at a landfill


Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis spent the day at the Waste Management landfill in Austin. They were there to make a point - America is behind on recycling.

Innovators of recycling
When Tuerff and Davis started America Recycles Day (ARD) 10 years ago, they had high hopes the recycling would take off in America.According to the EPA, overall recycling climbed by 80 percent in the ‘90s, moving from 16 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2000. Since then recycling has crawled forward at an alarmingly slow pace.

"Back when we started America Recycles Day in 1997, leaders projected half of all waste would be recycled by now. We're at 32 percent, and that's a huge disappointment for conservation," said Tuerff, president and principal of EnviroMedia Social Marketing.

So instead of celebrating ARD's 10th anniversary, the couple headed out to the dump to protest the country's lack of recycling progress.

Landfill gobbles up resources
"We're here watching the trucks dump lots of stuff that could be recycled. Trucks have been coming in since 5 a.m. throwing garbage into this huge pit behind us, smoothing and packing, smoothing and packing. I'm told huge hole will be filled in about a year. We've been down into the hole twice today and you can see all kinds of recyclables like paper and phone books. Austin has a phonebook recycling program so why are they in here? A huge truck came dumping nothing but cardboard, one of the most easily recyclable items, which can fetch a pretty penny on the market as well," said Davis, Principal and CEO of EnviroMedia.

Why the decline?
Tuerff and Davis blame the lack of progress on four things: nearly 300 less curbside recyclables collection programs in the U.S. since 1996; manufacturers' disinterest in using recycled materials; diminishing community programs and education budgets to remind people to recycle; and the proliferation of plastic water bottles.

Those plastic bottles present the saddest story today in America's recycling efforts. The Container Recycling Institute reports just 14 percent of plastic water bottles are being recycled. Meanwhile, per capita consumption of bottled water has more than doubled in the U.S. since the first America Recycles Day.

Citizens are willing
But America does want to recycle. EnviroMedia commissioned a national study and found that more than half of Americans are willing to support mandated recycling programs as a way to reduce global warming.

Why not take the recycling pledge and encourage friends and family to recycle as well.

Read more about the recycling and the whole event at the Live from the Landfill blog including videos that are fascinating and horrfying.