Legislation aims to ‘fix America’s broken recycling system’ with detailed 2-prong plan

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/	Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd
Source: Getty/ Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd

Related tags Recycling Sustainability Plastic Packaging

CPG and waste and recycling industry leaders are urging the House of Representatives to follow the US Senate’s lead and quickly pass “critical” legislation needed to “fix America’s broken recycling system” which, according to the Consumer Brands Association, is in decline as confused consumers try to navigate nearly 10,000 local systems with different rules and inconsistent data reporting requirements.

“Right now, recycling is in retreat. Cities and countries are reducing or even eliminating their recycling programs. The national recycling rate is declining. Consumers are confused and frustrated,”​ CBA vice president of packaging sustainability John Hewitt recently opined in The Hill​.

“We cannot accept this disarray as our fate,”​ he added, calling for “uniformity … to unlock recycling’s potential.”

Late last month the Senate answered Hewitt’s and others’ call to action by passing two bills aimed are improving rural access to recycling infrastructure and hold the US Environmental Protection Agency accountable for formally collecting recycling and composting data.

The unanimous passage of the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act ​ and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act​ was lauded by US Senate champions Tom Carper, D-Del., who said the nation is now “one step closer to enacting solutions that are good for our planet and our economy.”

US Senate Environment & Public Works Committee ranking member Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., echoed this sentiment, noting that “a lack of infrastructure – especially in rural America – often hinders communities’ access to recycling. These bills will help address this issue and encourage more recycling across the country.”

Both joined industry advocates in calling for the House to pass “these commonsense measures.”

The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (S.3743)  would address the abysmal 32% national recycling rate by requiring EPA to work with state, local and Tribal governments to assess and implement a national residential composting strategy and require EPA to “create a comprehensive baseline of data on the US recycling system”​ by requiring it to collect and report on the prevalence of recycling and composting programs nationwide, the types of materials accepted by each program, contamination rates and the availability of curbside and drop-off services.

The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (S.3742) would empower EPA to award competitive grants to improve recycling accessibility in underserved communities through the use of a “hub-and-spoke model for recycling infrastructure development,” according to the Senate EPW committee.

In a Tweet lauding the bills’ passage, CBA noted, “the need to fix America’s broken recycling system has never been greater and this is the momentum wee need.”

The National Waste & Recycling Association, which worked closely with legislators on the bills, also lauded their passage and called for the House of Representatives “to move swiftly to pass these bills,”​ which CEO Darrell Smith said “will advance America’s domestic recycling infrastructure and capabilities.”

The Plastics Industry Association also applauded passage of the bipartisan bills as “much-needed improvements to the recycling system in the United States.”

PLASTICS CEO Matt Seaholm added that “more accurate data will tell us exactly where recycling deficiencies are, and improved infrastructure will aid in more efficient collection, sorting and recycling of all material.”

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