The United States, the largest producer of household waste

The United States is the country producing the most household waste per capita in the world among the developed countries, without having the sorting capacities necessary to absorb them, which represents a threat for the environment.

The world produces an average of 2.1 billion tonnes of waste per year, taking into account the solid waste managed by municipalities, that is to say thrown food, plastics and various detritus, enough to fill more 820,000 Olympic swimming pools. Only 16% of the total is recycled, according to this report.

American residents and traders are by far the most likely to produce trash per person among the wealthiest countries: on average 773 kilos per year, more than three times the world average and seven times more than the Ethiopians, Ethiopia being the country that produces the least waste.

In contrast, recycling capacity in the United States is one of the poorest among developed countries, with only 35%, far behind Germany, which recycles 68% of its litter.

The report’s authors warn that China’s sudden decision in 2018 to stop accepting plastic waste from around the world, followed by other countries in Southeast Asia, may further complicate the plight of large waste-producing countries.

Some countries have decided to ban plastic products, either bags or disposable items. However, global production of plastics increased further in 2018 on a global scale, led by Asia and the United States, according to the PlasticsEurope federation.

Two subjects animate the debates of the American Congress: the question of interstate flows of municipal waste and that of the recycling of electronic waste.

Interstate municipal waste flows are today a real problem across the Atlantic. States like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan are now classified as “trash states”, because of the millions of tonnes of waste they receive each year from neighboring states, which do not have sufficient treatment capacity .

For several years, professional associations and service providers in the waste sector, including the very powerful National Solid Waste Management Association (SWANA) and Carlsbad dumpster rentals, have successfully opposed any regulation aimed at limiting interstate flows.

Suddenly, some have put in place dissuasive measures, such as Pennsylvania which used the regional Trashnet program, initially intended to guarantee the technical conformity of waste trucks, to limit imports of waste.

In response to this problem, the Republican representative of Virginia, Jo Ann Davis, tabled a bill that would leave local authorities the right to prohibit the importation of waste in their constituency.

In addition, the text proposes to limit the flow of waste for all municipalities which would decide, despite everything, to authorize the import of waste into their landfills.

In a second bill, Jo Ann Davis proposes to reserve the power to regulate waste flows to states. This provision clearly goes against the ideas of industrialists in the sector who advocate the free market in waste management.

Indeed, the project aims to establish a billing system for landfill costs differentiated according to the origin of the waste (internal or external to the State), as well as a limit to the volumes imported, calculated in relation to the total landfill capacity of each State.

Another subject on the Congress agenda is the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

In the wake of the country’s first e-waste recycling legislation, Californian Democrat representatives Mike Thompson and Louise Slaughter have proposed nationwide legislation.

The latter, which was already rejected in 2002 and 2003, proposes that the EPA be the official authority, responsible for designating all electronic devices (computers, televisions, monitors, etc.) to which would be imposed a surcharge of 10 dollars to the purchase, which would finance the recycling of WEEE.

If this text is likely to be again rejected by the Republicans, on the other hand, the project presented by the senators Ron Wyden, democrat of Oregon, and Jim Talent, republican of Missouri is likely to be adopted.

This regulation proposes the creation of a national infrastructure for recycling electronic waste, responsible for ensuring that no device equipped with a screen of more than 10 centimeters can be landfilled or incinerated.

In addition, recycling units processing more than 5,000 screens or computers per year could benefit from a tax credit of $ 8 per recycled unit.

Finally, consumers who send used computers or televisions for recycling to approved service providers would benefit from a $ 15 tax deduction per unit.

However, according to the economic mission of Houston, this particularly ambitious bill seems difficult to apply in the state, because of the significant cost of the tax benefits it provides. The EPA, which is currently assessing the feasibility of such a project through a cost-benefit study, should provide further clarification.