Legislators introduce plastic waste reduction, recycling act
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Legislators introduce plastic waste reduction, recycling act

The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act would direct the establishment of a waste reduction, recycling research program.

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U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio have introduced the Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act as bipartisan legislation to reduce plastic waste and improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. plastics recycling industry. 

The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act directs the establishment of a plastic waste reduction and recycling research and development program, calls on the federal government to develop a strategic plan for plastic waste reduction and calls for the development of standards for plastics recycling technologies.

The proposed legislation would:

  • direct the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Program to improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. plastics recycling industry;
  • direct the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an interagency committee to coordinate the program and develop a strategic plan for plastic waste reduction and recycling and plastic waste remediation;
  • direct the National Institute of Standards and Technologies to carry out research and provide the metrology basis for standards development for plastics recycling and related technologies, and to develop a clearinghouse to support dissemination of the tools, guidelines, and standards supported by the program;
  • direct the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support research and other activities on advanced recycling technologies, plastic waste remediation and the public health impacts of microplastics, among other topics; and

  • authorize funding for five years and invest $85 million in 2021 for these activities.


“We can no longer deny that we face a plastic waste crisis,” Stevens says. “In 2018, the U.S. woke up to the fragile predicament of our plastic waste management system. No longer able to ship our plastic waste to international markets, U.S. cities were forced to cut long-standing recycling programs. Instead, they had to resort to incinerating recyclables or tossing them in landfills. 

“There are plenty of reasons for why and how we got here; however, a major factor is because we failed as a nation to invest in domestic recycling infrastructure and policies to account for the growing demand for plastic,” she says. “As a result, today, the U.S. recycles just 9 percent of its plastic waste. The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act will help develop a world-leading U.S. industry in advanced plastics recycling technologies and unleash the innovative potential of our nation to address our plastic waste crisis and generate greater value from the plastics we do produce.”

The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act is endorsed by the American Chemical Council (ACC), American Chemistry Society, American Beverage Association and Plastics Industry Association (Plastics).

“We applaud the introduction by Rep. Haley Stevens of the Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act to improve recycling in this country and look forward to working with every member of Congress to ensure this important piece of legislation becomes law. Innovative companies are eager to use more recycled material to create new products and prevent waste from entering the environment,” says Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of Plastics. 

“Passing the Plastics Waste Reduction and Recycling Act would accelerate research and development on advanced plastics recycling technologies, which would enable a significantly greater range of our plastics resources to be repurposed,” the ACC states in a news release about the proposed legislation. “It also would increase research and coordination across federal agencies on plastic waste reduction as well as recycling. The ACC appreciates the approach taken by Reps. Haley Stevens and Anthony Gonzalez to better align and coordinate these various initiatives and harness the expertise of different agencies for greater success in ending plastic waste.”

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has voiced its support of the proposed legislation in a statement that reads: "ISRI supports initiatives that spur research and enhance opportunities for recycling of all commodities, including plastics. We welcome the Plastic Waste and Reduction Act and commend Rep. Stevens and Rep. Gonzalez for their vision to make the United States a leader in market-based approaches to the circular economy of plastics. ISRI looks forward to working with these and other members of Congress to promote recycling and help Americans rediscover its many benefits."