Federal environmental policies help ensure that all Americans have the same protection. In the New Yorker, Philip Angell, an EPA special assistant appointed in 1970, the statutes give EPA “the primary authority to set standards and enforce them if the states won’t do it. The whole point was to set a federal baseline.” To assert that “for every new regulation enacted, at least two existing ones” should be removed threatens not only the environment but civil rights and any other social issues that many states have historically failed to protect. With weak federal regulation, will mining companies again be allowed by local governments to dump toxic waste in waterways?
There are few industries more intertwined with local government than recycling. The means, frequency and price for collecting recyclables from consumers and businesses are commonly regulated by the city or county. Given the numerous touch points between local government and recycling companies and groups, one would expect city and county decision-makers to talk about recycling issues. At Waste Alert, we know that’s the case because every week we review city council and county commission agendas and minutes for our solid waste and recycling industry clients.
Yes, the old TVs at Africa scrapyards were imported decades ago. Yes, they were reused and repaired for years. Yes, the Tech Sector is innocent of "ewaste crime". Yes, the piles around cities like Tamale and Accra are abandoned repairs - just like the TVs abandoned at Massachusetts repair shops, documented in the September 2000 Jobs Through Recycling: Electronics Reuse and Recycling Infrastructure in Massachusetts report. But no, they are not going away on their own. Ghana needs the same thing Massachusetts needed in the 1990s - a way to fund a practical, inexpensive, recycling infrastructure.
Significantly, RCRA established a fundamental shift in how we look at our waste. The law set into motion goals for conserving energy and natural resources and reducing the amount of waste the nation generated. For example, the law requires all Federal procurement agencies to purchase items composed of the maximum allowable percentage of recycled materials. As with other environmental laws set by EPA, the law is built on a partnership with the states. Congress has amended RCRA several times since its enactment, and can certainly do so again. Mr. Pruitt’s claim of not knowing about the specifics of RCRA may or may not bode well for the future of the sustainable materials management path that EPA is currently embarked upon. Since RCRA’s fate may lie in the hands of Congress, and EPA will be under the whims of its Administrator, let’s hope that any forthcoming actions take into consideration the pivotal founding of both EPA and RCRA. Such actions may have profound implications for our country and the future of our planet.