Congressional Bills to Watch: Recycling

Date: June 3, 2022

Source: News Room

Over the past two decades, the US Government's attitude toward waste management and recycling has changed dramatically. What was once a sidelined and seldom looked at issue, often an afterthought to other environmental issues, has quickly moved to the center of lawmaker's attention. Currently, several bills are sitting on different lawmaker's desks, each with different implications for the future of the waste industry.

One such bill is the "Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act", which currently has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Originally introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), the bill calls for extended producer responsibility programs (EPR) for plastic packaging as well as creating a national 10-cent beverage container deposit program. It also calls for a major reduction in plastics production through increasing post-consumer recycled content minimums to 80 percent by 2040 as well as introducing a 3-year moratorium on issuing permits for plastics production facilities. While this bill has proven controversial, drawing criticism from the NWRA, its reintroduction shows that the federal government is trending toward a more serious approach to cutting plastic waste.

Another important bill to watch is the "COMPOST Act", currently before the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. This act would allocate $200 million a year through 2031 for composting infrastructure projects. The bill has attracted wide support including more than 60 stakeholders that range from NGOs to compostable packaging manufacturers. This bill also represents a step by the federal government toward more support for composting in general, as opposed to traditional landfills and recycling centers.

Additionally, both the "Build Back Better Act" and the "COMPETES Act" contain significant provisions for waste management. The original draft of the "Build Back Better Act" allocated over $550 Billion for climate provisions. A major focus of those provisions was reducing emissions produced by waste and waste management facilities. The "COMPETES Act" which focuses on increasing US production of semiconductor chips, also contains provisions for reducing e-waste. The US is the second largest producer of e-waste, and it exports a large portion of that total. Improving US capability of e-waste recycling will be an important part in reducing dependency on foreign metal production and reducing tech prices domestically.

While it is likely that some of those measures will not pass, they indicate changing attitudes among politicians and the public towards more sustainability especially as it pertains to resource recovery and waste management practices.

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