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ISRI President Delivers State of the Recycling Industry Address to U.S. Senate Recycling Caucus

Wiener moderates panel on industry challenges and opportunities

(Washington, DC) – In conjunction with the celebration America Recycles Day, the U.S. Senate Recycling Caucus hosted a briefing today on Capitol Hill in which Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) moderated. The briefing was to highlight the current state of the U.S. recycling industry from the viewpoint of different stakeholders in the industry, including municipalities, material recycling facilities, consumer brands, and paper and plastic recycling groups.

In her remarks, Wiener highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing the recycling industry. She outlined the four basic elements necessary for successful recycling:

1. Recycling is a commodities business that is driven by demand from manufacturers;
2. The value of scrap is directly related to its quality;
3. The industry is far more than residential recycling; and
4. Recycling is a global business.

Wiener stated, “China’s actions exposed a number of weaknesses in certain segments of the U.S. recycling infrastructure, particularly with regard to the residential stream. … The good news is that innovation has always played an important role in advancing recycling. Many recyclers have already begun to change processes and invest in technologies to produce higher grades. But that takes time and money. Investments within the U.S. market are also being made by paper and plastics consumers and will result in increased demand for scrap in the coming years. European and Chinese investors are also moving into the U.S. market to more easily source high quality U.S. scrap.

“Innovation is also coming from public-private partnerships within the United States. ISRI is proud to be a member of the Department of Energy’s REMADE Institute, a multi-year, $50 million effort initiated last year to drive advanced manufacturing within the U.S., focused on sustainability and recycling. This will provide new opportunities for the use of recyclable materials in manufacturing and also more focus on Design for Recycling.

“What is manufactured today, we hope will be recycled tomorrow. As products get smaller, lighter, and incorporate different materials, recyclability can be more complicated … so we are increasing our dialogue with manufacturers to ensure end-of-life is a strong consideration in product design.”

“Keeping recycling strong in the U.S. requires a continual focus on quality, consumer awareness, and market access and demand growth,” Wiener concluded. “ISRI is working with our industry and community partners across the country to address many of these challenges, and we look forward to continuing to work with both of you – and all the members of the Recycling Caucus – as we build an even stronger recycling infrastructure within the United States.”

Wiener’s full remarks as prepared for deliverable are available here.

In addition to Wiener, the panel included: Stephanie Baker, K&W Plastics; Zach Freeze, Walmart; Ben Harvey, E.L. Harvey; and Annie White, D.C. Department of Public Work’s Office of Waste Diversion.

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The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is the "Voice of the Recycling Industry™." ISRI represents more than 1,300 companies in 21 chapters in the U.S. and more than 40 countries that process, broker, and consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics, and textiles. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute provides education, advocacy, safety and compliance training, and promotes public awareness of the vital role recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, the environment and sustainable development. Generating nearly $117 billion annually in U.S. economic activity, the scrap recycling industry provides nearly half a million Americans with good jobs.

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