Making every day America Recycles Day

For more than two decades, communities across the country have come together on November 15th to observe America Recycles Day and celebrate their commitment to recycling.

This year, I spent the morning talking about recycling with a group of students at Dover High School – the home of the Senators! These students are taking the lead on recycling through “Teen Vision,” a community service group at Dover High that does great work like food bank drives and raising funds for breast cancer research. Every Wednesday, as many as two dozen students spend half an hour recycling bottles, cans, paper and other items at the school.

I can tell you this, if Senators in D.C. have the same passion for recycling as the Senators at Dover High, we’ll be in great shape. Fortunately, a number of U.S. Senators do!

I’ve been a strong advocate for recycling for 50 years, which is what eventually inspired me to start the Senate Recycling Caucus. As co-chair and co-founder of the Senate Recycling Caucus, I’m partnering with my Republican colleague, Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, to lead the caucus in exploring ways in which the federal government can encourage more recycling. This year, our bipartisan caucus has held four briefings with environmental, business and local community leaders to learn more about the state of recycling in America today. 

Earlier this week, Senator Boozman and I introduced and successfully passed a resolution in the U.S. Senate to commemorate today, November 15th, as America Recycles Day.

I believe we have a moral obligation to be devoted stewards of the environment and to leave our planet in better shape than we found it. Lately, I have been thinking about a quote from Martin Luther King:  “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” This call to service reminds me of recycling because almost anyone can help protect our environment by reducing the waste they produce, and by recycling. Over the years, I have recycled almost everything you can imagine—from a green Ford Explorer to paint cans to electronics. Just last weekend, I recycled a dehumidifier, a bundle of outdoor tree lights and a ton of other stuff, too.

For a small state like Delaware – which is 100 miles long and 50 miles wide – recycling is particularly important because we just don’t have a lot of space for landfills. Unfortunately, today, the recycling industry is facing unprecedented challenges, especially when it comes to plastics. According to the EPA, the United States recycles less than 22 percent of our discarded materials.  If we continue down this path, the World Economic Forum predicts that we are on track to have plastic pollution outweigh fish in our world’s oceans by 2050.

We need solutions that are win-wins for our economy and for our environment. I believe recycling is one of these win-win solutions. On top of cleaning up our waterways, reducing emissions and cutting the need to extract new resources, recycling and remanufacturing industries are beneficial for our economy – accounting for more than 750,000 jobs and approximately $6.7 billion in tax revenue. It’s also estimated that diverting 75% of U.S. waste from landfills and incineration to recycling by 2030 would create 2.3 million jobs! As I love to say, it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.

Recycling is something that just about every American can do each day to make a difference. So, please join me in celebrating America Recycles Day – and then, let’s make every day America Recycles Day! The Dover High Senators and young people all over the world will have a brighter future for it.

Tom Carper