Renewed environmental protection efforts increases focus on recycling

Published Wednesday, September 22, 2021

(Little Chute, WI) -- In an effort to increase the economic and environmental benefits of recycling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a new National Recycling Goal to raise the national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030. The national recycling rate has lingered in the low 30 percent range. This important change highlights the need for additional recycling infrastructure within the United States instead of shipping recyclables overseas.

“This is a significant increase and is especially important as China, once the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials, made a dramatic policy change in 2017,” said Brian Van Straten, Outagamie Country Resource & Solid Waste (OCRSW) director. In 2017, China instituted its National Sword Policy that restricts importing recyclables that contain high waste contamination rates. “The new policy has dramatically reduced the quantity of recyclable materials countries, including the U.S., send to China,” he said.

Van Straten says the bold step by the EPA, combined with China’s policy change, has created a renewed focus on the types of materials used in product manufacturing and packaging; and the need for everyone, especially at the household level, to be more proactive in managing our recycling and waste streams.

“Manufacturers continually look for ways to enhance product packaging to be more environmentally friendly or as an essential business decision as consumer awareness increases regarding the importance of recycling,” explains Van Straten. “Even as manufacturers make the shift, at the end of the day, it really boils down to consumers making good choices on the products they buy and discard and choosing products that are recyclable when possible. Another important element is understanding what’s recyclable and what is not.”

That’s an important element as the types of materials that are recyclable can fluctuate as new products are added so it’s important to check your local municipality’s recyclables list periodically to ensure you’re not placing recyclable materials into the trash.

“On behalf of the tri-county partnership of Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties, with Outagamie County being the home of the Tri-County Recycling Facility, we are committed to insuring the highest quality of recyclable commodities are recovered with the lowest possible contamination rates,” said Van Straten. “Residents in the tri-county service play a key role in this effort and together we can work to achieve the EPA’s 50 percent recyclable’s goal by 2030.”

For a complete list of what can be recycled by Outagamie County Recycling & Solid Waste, please visit: