U.S. House Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, chair of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, has included language in the report accompanying the subcommittee’s fiscal 2020 appropriations bill directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a national recycling strategy, according to a news release issued by Recycle Across America, Minneapolis. The House Appropriations Committee passed a $37.2 billion Interior-Environment funding bill for fiscal 2020, which now goes to the House floor for consideration.
The language in the letter directs the EPA to collaborate with key stakeholders on a national strategy to harmonize standards, strengthen markets and reduce contamination in the recycling stream. Priority is given to evaluating the implementation of a national system of standardized recycling labels to reduce contamination and enhance the market viability of recyclable materials.
Chairwoman McCollum released a statement about the subcommittee’s report that reads: “The national recycling strategy is an absolute priority in order to strengthen recycling in communities across America. It is environmental and economic madness to fill landfills and incinerators with recyclable materials because of confusion at the bin. Every household, business, school and institution should be using a standardized system to eliminate contamination and increase effective recycling. I want to thank Recycle Across America for their leadership and tremendous work to partner with me on this language and I am thrilled to be working with them to protect the environment and create jobs by strengthening recycling.”
Page 88 of the report accompanying the funding bill reads in part: “The Committee is concerned that the current system of recycling waste materials in the U.S. is unsustainable. The [EPA] can help ensure the long-term economic and environmental viability of local recycling programs by exercising national leadership and facilitating the harmonization of standards. The Committee believes that this will strengthen markets, reduce contamination and prevent recyclable materials from needlessly polluting the environment, being incinerated or sent to landfills. The Committee directs the [EPA] to develop, in collaboration with for-profit, nonprofit, state and local governments and other stakeholders, a national recycling strategy to strengthen and sustain the current system with recommendations for voluntary action to be reported to the Committees on Appropriations within 270 days of enactment. The strategy should analyze the expected benefits of each element of the strategy, including the value of implementing a national system of standardized recycling labeling, the importance of public education to increase residential and institutional compliance and other opportunities to significantly reduce cross-contamination and comingling of materials entering the recycling stream, as part of efforts to increase the economic viability of processing recyclable materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, electronic waste and compostable materials.”
In response to the letter, Mitch Hedlund, RAA founder, thanked Rep. McCollum, the Appropriations Committee and the EPA, writing: “This is a historic moment for recycling in the U.S.—a turn that will be measured in retrospect and not just in the U.S. but well beyond.”
She continues, “Having worked on this mission for the past 10 years and witnessing the impact of the standardized labels on the public, I can say confidently that the American people, representing all slices of society, are equally grateful to you for creating a national journey to end their (and all of our) confusion at the bin. The positive ripple effect of your leadership today will reach far and wide in addressing the waste in oceans crisis, as well as improving the environment, the economy and manufacturing."