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Bipartisan legislation to strengthen recycling, composting infrastructure unveiled

Lawmakers are pushing for an increase in sustainability amid reports stating the U.S. has a national recycling rate of 32 percent.

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June 23, 2022

Congressmen Joe Neguse of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennesee and Bill Foster of Illinois have introduced legislation to identify national composting infrastructure challenges and improve recycling data measurement and reporting. Called the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA), the bill is designed to fill information gaps in America’s recycling and composting systems.  

“To support American sustainability and ensure that we are doing all we can as a nation to help protect our environment, we must promote recycling and waste reduction in our communities, empowering individuals to make conscious decisions that have a real, cumulative impact on our environment,” says Neguse. “This bill will ensure that Americans have the resources and information needed to support recycling efforts. It also increases government support for these processes, moving our nation toward sustainability.”  

The RCAA would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect and publish data on recycling and composting rates across the country to provide an accurate reflection of performance nationwide and at the state level.  

Specifically, the bill would:  

  • identify national composting infrastructure challenges by requiring the EPA to work with state, local and Tribal governments to assess the capability of the United States to implement a national residential composting strategy.   

  • improve recycling data measurement and reporting by creating a comprehensive baseline of data on the U.S. recycling system.   

  • assess end markets and diversion by directing the EPA to prepare a report on the end market sale of all recyclable materials and compostable materials collected from households and publicly available drop-off centers.  

  • evaluate federal recycling practices by asking the Government Accountability Office to examine the recycling practices across the federal government and issue a report that documents the annual recycling rates of federal agencies.  

  • establish recycling and composting best practices by using improved data collection and reporting. The RCAA would establish voluntary guidelines for state, local and Tribal governments to enhance recycling and composting efforts. 

“It’s important to understand how successful the different recycling programs are before making policy decisions,” says Billy Johnson, ISRI’s chief lobbyist, in a statement on ISRI’s website. “Collecting data on recycling and composting programs around the country will help legislators get the information they need to make good policy decisions.”  

In March, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate. The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would establish a pilot rural recycling program at the EPA. The goal is to fund eligible projects that significantly improve access to recycling systems in underserved communities through a hub-and-spoke model for recycling infrastructure development.  

ISRI says it intends to help the RCAA move forward as well as its counterpart legislation in the U.S. Senate. The House Energy & Commerce Committee intends to hold a hearing June 30 to discuss recycling and the RCAA bill. ISRI says it will keep members updated on any changes.