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Recycling Act 2019 RECYCLE Act Introduced In Senate

By Ken McEntee
Bipartisan legislation that would create a federal grant program to educate residents about recycling has been introduced to the U.S. senate. S-2941 - the RECYCLE Act, was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and the Institute of Scrap and Recycling Industries (ISRI) quickly announced their support for bill. Those tow organizations did not support the RECOVER Act, which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives two days earlier.

“The RECYCLE Act will educate consumers on the right ways to recycle and is one of the best ways we can increase the quantity and quality of paper in the recycling stream," AF&PA said in a statement. "We are thankful for the collaborative work senators Portman, Stabenow, Collins, Young and Wyden have undertaken to engage stakeholders on this important legislation and are eager to work with all parties to move this bill forward."

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

The RECYCLE acronym stands for Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education.

The RECYCLE Act would:

Authorize $15 million per year over five years in grants to states, local governments, Indian tribes, non-profits and public private partnerships to educate and inform consumers and households about their residential and community recycling programs;

Direct EPA to develop a model recycling program toolkit for states, local governments, Indian tribes and partners to deploy in order to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination in the recycling stream.

Require EPA to more frequently review and revise, if appropriate, its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, which designate products containing recycled materials and provides recommended practices for federal agencies to purchase such products.

“Our industry has achieved record-setting paper recovery rates for recycling, but we also recognize the U.S. recycling system is faced with challenges that begin at the bin," AF&PA said. "Providing grants to fund recycling education programs is a positive step in working to dispel recycling myths, discourage wishcycling and arm consumers with the resources they need to contribute to a U.S. recycling success story.”

The RECYCLE Act was introduced two days after the RECOVER Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. The RECOVER (Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Values of Expanding Recycling) Act - HR-5115 - which would allocate $500 million toward improving the residential recycling infrastructure, was introduced by Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.). The RECOVER ACT would allow for matching federal grants to eligible states, municipalities and tribal governments to invest in improving their recycling infrastructure, programs and education efforts.

The RECOVER Act supported by a variety of waste and recycling organizations, but not by AF&PA and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). ISRI, along with AF&PA, supports the RECYCLE Act.

“We are in the process of reviewing the details of the bill,” Brian Hawkinson, AF&PA executive director - recovered fiber, said when asked why the trade organization had not supported the RECOVER Act.

Meanwhile, Robin Wiener, president of ISRI, said, "At this time ISRI does not support the RECOVER Act. There are a number of legislative efforts being put forth in the U.S. Congress to tackle the current challenges we are seeing in the nation’s residential recycling systems, including the need to improve the quality of the residential recycling stream and provide incentives for greater market demand for recyclables."

Wiener said ISRI supports the following efforts, which the organization feels contain the best approaches going forward:

The Portman and Stabenow RECYCLE Act, which focuses on public education and awareness to prevent contamination at the outset; and

S. 2260, which passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in September.

"We are working closely with a number of Senate and House offices to craft legislation that most effectively addresses the current situation and continue to be open to additional suggestions and efforts to improve our nation’s recycling infrastructure," Wiener said.

According to Portman, "Reports have indicated that consumer confusion on how to properly recycle is one of the top recycling challenges and that education and outreach both increase participation in recycling and decrease contamination."

In a joint announcement, Portman and Stabenow noted that according to U.S. EPA, the recycling rate in the U.S. is 35.2 percent, and $9 billion worth of recyclable materials are thrown away each year, which presents a big opportunity to improve our nation’s recycling systems.

"In addition, recycling offers numerous environmental and economic benefits, including diverting materials from landfills, using less energy to reprocess recycled material - which reduces emissions - and creating jobs," the announcement said. "EPA’s 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report found that recycling supports more than 757,000 jobs and $6.7 billion annually in tax revenues.

“Education and outreach is a key pillar to improving recycling rates and reducing contamination in our recycling stream,” Portman said. “Reports have indicated that one-third of materials that households put into their recycling bins end up in landfills and are not actually recycled. This is in part because there is confusion about what can actually be recycled, which leads to contamination of materials that could otherwise be recycled but instead are landfilled. Education is a key component in both increasing the amount of material that is being recycled and ensuring that the material being put into community and residential recycling programs is actually being recycled."

Stabenow said that to improve recycling rates across the country, local communities must have the right tools to recycle in an effective way.

Wyden said "a little bit of clarity will go a long way towards helping the conscientious consumer and strengthening domestic recycling markets. Recycling is in Oregon’s DNA, dating back to our state’s pioneering bottle bill. But with so many things to sort and constantly evolving rules, recycling often becomes a headache for even the most seasoned or best-intentioned consumer.”

Organizations that support the RECYCLE Act, but not the RECOVER Act include:

The Recycling Partnership
National Association of Manufacturers
Grocery Manufacturers Association
American Beverage Association
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries
Paper Recycling Coalition
American Forest & Paper Association
Can Manufacturers Institute
The Association of Plastic Recyclers
Procter & Gamble
Reserve Management Group
Resinate Materials Group
KW Plastics
Evangelical Environmental Network
Advanced Drainage Systems
Construction and Demolition Recycling Association
Sierra Club
Natural Resources Defense Council
National Wildlife Federation
Wildlife Conservation Society.
Organizations that support the RECOVER Act but not the RECYCLE Act, include: American Frozen Food Institute
Berry Global
Flexible Packaging Association
Foodservice Packaging Institute
International Bottled Water Association
Kenrich Petrochemicals, Inc.
PepsiCo, Inc.
SNAC International
Sustainable Packaging Coalition / GreenBlue
Vinyl Institute

Organizations that support both the RECYCLE and the RECOVER Act include:

Solid Waste Association of North America
National Waste & Recycling Association
American Chemistry Council
Plastics Industry Association
Glass Packaging Institute

S-2260, which Wiener referred to, is a bill that would combat plastic pollution in the ocean. Sponsors of S-2260 and similar bills S-1982 and S-2372, plan to combine them into one version on the Senate floor, according to Sen. Sullivan (R-Alaska), sponsor of S-1982.

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