A Plethora of Federal Recycling Legislation

Normally, we don’t see very many pieces of federal legislation directed solely on recycling. However, during this Congress, we have seen about a dozen. In addition to the annual electronics recycling export restriction bills, federal legislation has been introduced to combat marine plastics, invest $500 million in municipal recycling programs, spend $75 million to raise public awareness and instruct what to recycle and what not to recycle, order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a national recycling framework, classify PFAS as a hazardous substance, impose consumer fees and restrictions or “bans” on plastic bags and other and products, collect and report better data on recycling including an inventory of private and public MRFs, and invest in our nation’s infrastructure to both improve the movement of goods and to use more construction materials that contain recycled content. In addition, numerous Congressional hearings and briefings have occurred. Much of this excitement surrounding recycling has occurred because of the publicity over marine plastics and debris and the subsequent import restrictions imposed by China on some recyclable materials.

Last fall, ISRI participated in EPA’s recycling week and held our annual “State of Recycling” Congressional briefing during that week. We highlighted the continued successes of the recycling industry refuting the negative and misleading news accounts of the demise of recycling. In our briefing, we had several of ISRI’s Design for Recycling Award winners describe how they were helping to make their products more recyclable. They also described how they were using more recyclable content in their products which drives markets for these materials. ISRI offered these examples as ways industry is responding to their customers and the public’s desire to manufacture products that are more environmentally sustainable.

While one or more of these legislative efforts may pass and be signed by the president this year, we can certainly expect this attention to “fix” recycling to not abate in the next Congress after the 2020 elections. For more information, please contact Billy Johnson (202) 662-8548. 

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