Launched in 2002, the Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) implements Congress’ charge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Pollution Prevention Act to prevent pollution and conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently. The RCC is a national program that provides renewed urgency to EPA’s message of reducing, reusing, and recycling valuable materials habitually discarded by American industry and the general public by linking the importance of these activities to energy conservation and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.
While inclusive enough to reach every producer, manufacturer, and consumer, the RCC strategy is disciplined in its focus, targeting four major areas: Municipal Solid Waste, Green Initiatives–Electronics, Industrial Materials Recycling, and Priority and Toxic Chemicals. Most importantly, the RCC brings a shift from a “waste management” to a “materials management” approach: Aluminum cans in a bin are a “waste” only if we do not take advantage of the fact that they are a material that can be recycled again and again, thus saving valuable energy and reducing GHG emissions with every additional extraction and manufacturing cycle avoided. Similarly, in the industrial arena, coal combustion ash destined for landfills can be reused in the production of cement: For every ton of coal combustion ash that is reused, we avoid 1 ton of GHG emissions.
Over the past several years, EPA has focused on fostering partnerships that have the potential to produce significant and measurable environmental results in the areas of waste prevention and increasing recycling. Our WasteWise program targets businesses, institutions, and governments. GreenScapes partnerships address landscaping of commercial buildings. The Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) encourages the use of coal combustion products in transportation and building projects. The National Partnership for Environmental Priorities (NPEP) encourages industries to reduce chemicals of concern (priority chemicals). The Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) encourages academic institutions to remove outdated and unneeded toxic chemicals from the K–12 school environment. Plug-In To eCycling encourages industry, governments, retailers, and citizens to recycle and reuse electronic equipment. Outreach has been critical to the success of each of these programs in terms of engaging business partners (such as Dell, HP, Wal-Mart, GE, Subaru, and Staples) and the public. To educate and inform the next generation of citizens, EPA has an aggressive educational outreach program targeting youth of all ages, including the Planet Protectors Club program for elementary school children, the Make a Difference Campaign aimed at middle school students, and a recently launched program for high school students.