According to EPA, twenty years ago only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States. By 1998, 9,000 curbside programs and 12,000 recyclable drop-off centers had sprouted up across the nation. The United States currently diverts about 27 percent of all discarded materials for recycling, up from 17 percent in 1990. For some commodities the numbers are even higher: 45 percent of all paper is now recycled, as are 60 percent of all steel cans, 66.5 percent of aluminum cans, and 75 percent of appliances. Recycling is growing rapidly in the United States as more and more communities, businesses, and individuals realize the benefits. Yosemite National Park diverts 43% of its waste and recycles an additional 25% of its waste.


Technology iconThe number of curbside recycling programs nationwide has grown by 500 percent over the past five years. Today curbside recycling is provided to some 140 million Americans living in 9,000 communities. It is no surprise that recycling has grown so much in our national consciousness. Recycling aluminum takes only 5% of the energy needed to manufacture it from raw material. A stack of newspaper, collected for recycling and piled one meter high, saves a 10 meter tall evergreen tree. Consider the following methods for increasing recycling in your national park:

  • Identify methods to use recycled materials where possible and reduce material use
  • Coordinate procurement practices so that surplus materials in one unit may be used by another, rather than discarded. Purchase equipment (e.g., shredder for plastic, crusher for aluminum, second waste trailer)
  • Assign at least one full time person to deal with recycling
  • Use alternative fuel vehicles to haul recycling
  • Re-evaluate hauling needs and costs while ensuring the capability of the park's infrastructure
  • Require concessionaires to charge a deposit for recyclables
  • Create visitor ads about recycling activities

How to Recycle Particular Commodities:

Economic Savings

Economic Savings iconWell-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incineration. In addition, according to the National Recycling Coalition, recycling creates 1.1 million U.S. jobs, $236 billion in gross annual sales and $37 billion in annual payrolls. That means that recycling creates four jobs for every one job created in the waste management and disposal industries.

Environmental Benefits

Environmental Benefits iconFor most materials, recycling reduces energy-related carbon dioxide emissions produced during the extraction of natural resources and the manufacturing process. It also avoids greenhouse gas emissions from waste management activities. For example, one greenhouse gas-methane-is produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic materials such as yard waste, household waste, food waste, and paper in landfills. In addition to keeping paper out of landfills, paper recycling allows trees to continue growing and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

  • Steel made from recycled steel uses only 39% of the energy needed to make virgin steel.
  • Aluminum made from recycled aluminum uses 5% of the energy needed to make virgin aluminum.
  • Paper made from recycled paper uses only 26-45% of the energy needed to make virgin paper.


Links iconDepartment of the Interiors Waste Prevention and Recycling examples and case studies.

EPA's Office of Solid Waste (OSW) has developed materials for outreach and technical assistance on climate change and waste management.

EPA's WasteWi$e program works to prevent waste, recycle, and buy and manufacture products made with recycled materials.

EPA's Pay As You Throw program helps communities implement systems in which residents are charged based on the amount of trash they discard.

EPA's Jobs Through Recycling program provides information, technical assistance, and grants. The program's website includes a guide to funding opportunities for private nonprofit and public agencies.

Earth 911 allows you to enter your zip code to see a listing of recycling services in your area and browse recycling tips