Turning the Tide: Effective Strategies to Prevent Waste in the USA

Myrtle Beach pollution

The EPA has released a new report on the public service for the prevention and management of household and similar waste. It repeats observations already made here, prevention is still not really at the top of the hierarchy of waste treatment methods and may not be there for some time. Unless some of its recommendations are followed?

Preventing excessive waste creation

The EPA lists a number of criticisms for the public waste prevention and management service (the institution criticizes all types of public services in its reports). Prevention is worth its salt. They observe that prevention is the official priority but note the poor relation of waste management for both the public service and eco-organizations. The organization stipulates that prevention is primarily the responsibility of companies, without recalling that it is construction companies that create the most waste in the USA.

The EPA criticizes the lack of coordination between all the prevention plans (federal plan, state plan and local programs) and management. They qualify the prevention plans insufficiently precise and restrictive on investments. Regarding regional plans, the organization notes that they lack an operational nature for prevention.

For local plans such as South Carolina, they criticizes the cities which, for the institution, cover too narrow a field of prevention themes and lack resources and monitoring. They note that in the sample controlled by the financial jurisdictions, 90% of local authorities have set in their numerical objectives less ambitious than the national objectives, and the results obtained are generally below the objectives set. However, they must follow supra-local objectives (region, state), which demonstrates a government failure in controlling the legality of the acts of certain local authorities.

On the expenditure side, they observe a disproportion between the weight of household and similar waste in the country’s waste and their weight in public spending. They once again note the increase in costs (for more than 20 years), and that this is greater than the increase in GDP. The mention the financing and the too low incentive of waste pricing, less than 1% of revenue is linked to the incentive portion, also deploring the delay in its deployment.

Better recycling practices

On the recycling side, they point to several unattainable objectives such as the target of moving towards 100% recycled plastic in 2030. They relay the comments of public intermunicipal cooperation establishments, noting the increase in sorting refusals after the implementation of the extension of sorting instructions.

Waste management recommendation

The EPA does not just criticize dumpster rentals and other bad waste management practices. In accordance with its constitutional role of assisting the government in the evaluation of public policies, it recommends changes. The first is to unify national planning documents (prevention and management). At the local level, it recommends integrating their annual report into the annual report on the price and quality of the public waste prevention and management service.

Its other recommendations are to create from 2024 a graphic monitoring dashboard at the national and local levels with six key indicators including prevention and household waste for the public service and another dashboard with six key indicators for monitoring the REP 5 sectors. The EPA explains its proposal for a key indicator on OMR by a better understanding by citizens of the need to reduce unsorted trash. The regulation does indeed have an objective of lowering such waste, but the environmental and economic priority is to lower the OMR (without any associated regulatory objective).

To remedy the poor progress on incentive pricing, it recommends promoting the implementation of incentive pricing by reducing its cost for intercommunity thanks to additional financing increased to 80% of the corresponding costs over the first financial years. This could be done through the circular economy fund depending on the institution. This would make it possible to remove the obstacle to its deployment, namely the investment costs at the start of the system.

On the pure prevention side, the EPA invites the federal government to establish in the regulations the list of actions financed by counties and eco-organizations which can be considered as prevention expenditure. They invite the inclusion of a mandatory indicator on prevention expenditure for the SPPGD and for eco-organizations. Indeed, it happens that they put prevention, awareness-raising and communication expenses together in their annual report on the price and quality of SPPGD 6, which harms transparency on prevention expenses.

A federal decree does not clearly mention the need to indicate prevention expenses in the annual report. The EPA nevertheless highlighted the share of prevention expenditure in the total EPCI expenditure budget in its latest national cost benchmark. These recommendations could help clarify the situation mentioned above and for eco-organizations this would be new.

Finally, on the prevention and sustainability side, the Court recommends “Introducing a surcharge on the tourist tax, the proceeds of which would be allocated to actions relating to prevention and waste management” for territories classified as tourist by Ademe. These areas produce more household and similar waste per inhabitant/year on average.