Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

October 30, 2020

On Sunday, November 15, acknowledge America Recycles Day 2020 by recognizing the importance and impact of recycling, which has contributed to American prosperity and the protection of our environment since 1997 when it was created by the National Recycling Coalition. In 2009, this holiday became an integral part of the Keep America Beautiful Campaign. Today, there are thousands of events across the United States to raise awareness about recycling and to encourage people to recycle.

The recycling rate has increased from less than 7 percent in 1960 to the current rate of more than 35 percent. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that every 10,000 tons of materials recycled supports nearly 16 jobs and $760,000 in wages.

The recycling efforts of communities and business throughout the United States have helped with this success and growth. To build on recycling progress, EPA as well as local recycling providers encourage every American to contribute by recycling right that includes checking with your local collection agency to be certain that items you put in your recycling bin are acceptable. Items like cardboard, metal cans, and paper are commonly accepted by local curbside programs, but items like plastic bags, electronics, and batteries are not. Visit the EPA website at How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables to see how and where to recycle specific categories of items you are ready to reduce in your environment.

According to, interesting recycling facts include:

  • 60 percent of trash could be recycled
  • Aluminum cans can be recycled endlessly
  • Aluminum cans can go from recycling back to store shelves in 2 months
  • Recycling one can saves enough energy to run a TV for almost 3 hours
  • 80 billion aluminum cans are used each year around the world
  • Americans throw away more than 25 trillion Styrofoam cups a year
  • 5 million plastic bottles are used in America every hour and most of them are tossed in the trash
  • Plastic bags in the oceans kill a million sea creatures a year
  • Every year, a billion trees worth of paper is thrown away
  • Wood and paper thrown away each year could heat 50 million homes for two decades
  • Recycling one ton of plastic can save almost 2,000 gallons of gasoline

Ways to Observe America Recycles Day

The simplest way to observe this holiday is by looking at what you throw away and making a commitment to recycle more. You also can encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. On social media, you can use the hashtag #AmericaRecyclesDay.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals
  • Increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials
  • Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
  • Saves energy
  • Supports American manufacturing and conserves valuable resources
  • Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States

Steps to Reduce Waste

Find out what you can do to help make a difference in your environment every day. Whether you’re at home, on the go, in the office, or at school, you are faced with many opportunities to go green by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Click on the following links to reach EPA’s recommendations by specific categories.

Ways to Recycle More, Recycle Right

Check out EPA’s Frequent Questions on Recycling page for more information on ways you can contribute and where.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative instructions may apply to your recycling efforts and EPA offers the following tips.

  • Focus on waste prevention where possible, and when recycling, keep the materials as clean and dry as possible.
  • Follow the guidelines of your local recycling hauler and only put items in your recycling bin that they accept.
  • If your community is not processing recycling due to the materials recovery facility being closed or another reason, consider dropping materials off at a recycling center, while following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state, and local public health guidelines.
  • Keep plastic bags, masks, wipes, and latex gloves out of the recycling bin.
  • If someone in your home has COVID-19, treat your recyclables as trash. 
  • Don’t put your recyclables in plastic bags.
  • Clean and shake dry recyclables to ensure products get recycled.
  • Break down cardboard boxes and put them in the recycling bin whenever possible. 
  • Put recycling and trash in the appropriate bins, not next to them. Leaving materials next to bins increases risks to sanitation workers and can attract pests.
  • Do not put lithium, lithium-ion or spent lead-acid batteries (e.g., car batteries) in your trash or recycling bins. These batteries can contain hazardous materials and can contaminate groundwater or cause fires at recycling facilities. Batteries from electronics and cars can be recycled at specified retail and other locations. You can also check with your city or county to see if they have a household hazardous waste collection program.
  • If you are cleaning thoroughly, consider setting aside items (e.g., batteries, paints, weed killers, plastic bags, clothing, and other donations) to donate, recycle, or dispose of later when it’s safe to bring them to a drop off location or collection event. Follow local guidelines. Many localities are limiting service and are not picking up yard waste or bulk items at this time.
  • Return grass clippings back onto your lawn instead of bagging them.
  • Thank your recycling collectors, haulers, and sorters—they are providing a vital service during this time!

Resources for Educators

EPA encourages educators to use online and printed resources to show students how to reduce, reuse, and recycle for America Recycles Day.

Recycling not only saves space in landfills, reuses important resources, and saves energy but it also prevents the needless destruction of many aquatic animal species and helps in the fight against global warming. Spend time on November 15 to figure out how you can recycle more. When you review your home, school, and work spaces and recycle unneeded printed and computer files, consider transferring financial and personal information from cumbersome arrangements to If you do, you’ll be able to easily access timely information without having to cull through loads of documents hidden in filing cabinets, boxes, or on your computer.

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