European Vs American attitudes towards recycling II

by ajess1 on March 2, 2015 - 6:01pm

            Digging deeper into reason why American rates are lower than European rates there are more and more large factors jumping out at me. The first being that many European countries have strict laws put into play to increase recycling among companies and individuals, and the second being these countries are generally smaller that the United States.

            It was found that European countries have made regulations about recycling batteries; this is under producer responsibility in all countries.  The European Portable Battery Association (EPBA) discloses that this is necessity because “producers will only take on their responsibilities and finances and recycling operations if there is a legal requirement…” (2015, EPBA).  This acknowledges one of the first major issues here that if there is not laws and a way to enforce these laws companies won’t be bothered with recycling.  In the United States Congress has acknowledged that phasing out mercury in batteries and providing cost effective recycling options is in the public’s best interest (2014 USEPA).   This is enforced with up to a $10,000 penalty if a consumer is found to be in violation (2014 USEPA).  The main reason behind enforcing battery recycling is to ensure that chemical compounds are recycled properly because of the adverse effects that they may have on the environment if disposed of into a landfill.

            A larger problem is the lack of recycling all other recyclable materials.  In this aspect the United States is still considered to be behind in the Recycling world games with generally 34.5% recycling (2014 USEPA).  However this is only if you look at small individual countries; countries such as Austria that has 63% of the population recycling, Germany with 62%, Belgium 58% or the Netherlands with 51% of the population recycling (2013 Girling).  Looking at population sizes however Germany has approximately 81,000,000, Belgium has approximately 10,000,000, where the United States alone has over 300,000,000 people.  So are Americans really behind, or is it just because we are one large country?  Do we need more regulations?

Literature sited:
2013. Population Estimate. Version [Online.] United States Census Bureau. Available at:

2013. Girling., A.F. Highest recycling rates in Austria and Germany- but UK and Ireland show fast increase. Version [Online.] European Environment Agency.  Available at:

2014. Municipal Solid Waste. Version [Online.] United States Environmental Protection Agency. Available at:

2015. Recycling around Europe. Version [Online.] E.P.B.A Europe. Available at:


The protection of the environment is a topic that is becoming increasingly important across the globe. Although policies and regulations do make a difference between European and American attitudes towards recycling, I believe that there are other easier and simpler ways to help. Just in the U.S., there are many different organizations that show their support towards the environment, such as The Nature Conservancy. No matter which state you live in, this organization has local events like tree planting parties, cleaning up trash, free E-Recycling Days, community gardens and even more volunteer opportunities. All you need to do is a small action to make a difference. For more information, here is The Nature Conservancy’s website:

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