After walking the exhibit hall at ISRI2022 and seeing the energy and enthusiasm of ISRI exhibitors and members, recycling industry advocates were reaffirmed that the work they do every day is truly invaluable.

“Walking through the exhibit hall and seeing all the neat toys that I used to play with [when I was a child] in full-scale size is inspiring to us as advocates. [It helps us] take what this industry does back to Washington and [effectively communicate],” explains Rich Gold, Practice Group Leader, Public Policy & Regulation at Holland & Knight during the Advocacy in Today’s Washington, DC session on March 24. Gold was joined by fellow Holland & Knight representatives Dimitrios Karakitsos and Nasim Fussell. The session was moderated by ISRI President Robin Wiener.

One of the first topics the panel discussed was the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) March 23 announcement to reinstate certain previously granted and extended product exclusions in the China Section 301 Investigation. Considered a major victory for the industry, the determination reinstates the tariff exclusion on shredder wear parts, retroactive to Oct. 12, 2021, and extends the exclusion through Dec. 31, 2022. Shredder wear parts imported from China will not be assessed the additional 25% tariff during this period.

“I hope that was very good news for you all,” Fussell says. “I know how closely you’ve been watching this for a long time now.”

ISRI has advocated on the shredder wear parts tariff since the Trump administration imposed the tariff in July 2018. USTR granted an exemption April 18, 2019, and in 2020 the government allowed companies and organizations to request continuation of the exemption for one year, which was granted to all that requested it.

In October 2021, when USTR invited public comments on whether to reinstate previously extended exclusions, which included shredder wear parts, ISRI was quick to submit comments. The association explained why the exclusion for shredder wear parts should be reinstated and how the tariff has caused economic harm to U.S. small businesses, employment, manufacturing output, and critical supply chains. “Credit to ISRI. A great submission was made, delivered, and accepted,” Fussell said. “Congratulations to Adina [Renee Adler, ISRI’s former vice president of advocacy], who I know did a lot of hard work with you all on it, and [congratulations] to all of you.”

The panel also discussed bills coming down the pipeline that could impact the recycling industry. The House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act on Feb. 4, while the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in July 2021. Gold said that Senate leadership has a target date of Memorial Day to pass the act, but he wasn’t confident that that deadline would be met. He was optimistic, though, that a bill could potentially be done by the midterm elections taking place later this year. Fussell says the Senate bill has a bipartisan trade package that contains language on Section 301 Exclusions that could benefit recyclers. Meanwhile, the House bill’s trade title is partisan, as is the entire package, Fussell says.

In terms of bills that have passed, money from the 2021 infrastructure bill is expected to start flowing into the states so they can start making improvements, Gold says. The bill includes the $75 million Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education (RECYCLE) Act, $150 million for critical mineral and battery recycling, and $100 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution-prevention program. According to ISRI’s chief lobbyist Billy Johnson, the bipartisan and bicameral RECYCLE Act “provides public awareness, education, and much needed clarity for residential recycling programs in the United States.” It authorizes a $15 million annual EPA grants program to help educate consumers about residential and community recycling. Its goal is to decrease contamination in the recycling stream and support recycling infrastructure.

Much has been accomplished, but there’s still a lot of work to do on behalf of recyclers and the industry. Gold let attendees know that Holland & Knight is ready to serve as a resource.

“We’re here to take the energy and the power of this industry and in this room and help amplify what [ISRI’s advocacy team] does on a daily basis on Capitol Hill and in key agencies for you all to make sure what’s important to you gets communicated to those branches of government,” he said.

Photo courtesy of ISRI.