Educate. Engage. Encourage.

Those three words sum up the America Recycles Day® session on Nov. 15 at the Keep America Beautiful national convention. Held at the Washington Hilton, the event attracted nearly 100 people from the nonprofit’s local affiliates and municipal agencies. ISRI’s chief lobbyist Billy Johnson began the session with an update on legislation involving recycling.

“Recycling is actually not bipartisan; it’s nonpartisan,” he declares. “Today, with the Recycling Caucus, you have a number of members of Congress who are trying to do things in the right way. As [lawmakers] understand that recycling supplies feedstock for manufacturing, they get on board.”

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is being signed Nov. 15 by President Joe Biden. In this new law, there are plenty of great provisions for the United States’ physical infrastructure including funds for repairing roads and bridges, ports and waterways, airports and expanded access to broadband internet. All these projects will require significant amounts of materials. This will significantly increase demand for recycled commodities.

ISRI helped develop the RECYCLE Act included in the infrastructure package. The measure provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with $75 million over five years to develop public awareness and education programs to help citizens understand what is recyclable and what is not. This funding should result in cleaner residential recycling streams.

The infrastructure bill also includes funding for Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. The bill will help other nations better manage their garbage, so it doesn’t enter the oceans. Another provision in the infrastructure bill that will help recycling and solid waste management is the voluntary battery labeling program along with research at the Energy Department to study ways to make lithium-ion batteries safer during transportation and processing in the recycling and other streams. The problems stemming from these batteries being included in products from cellphones to holiday cards is resulting in more fires and this provision will hopefully lead to some solutions.

Johnson urges KAB affiliates to educate their communities about how important it is to properly separate materials for recyclers and manufacturers. “It’s not that they don’t get material, it’s that they don’t get the right material,” he explains. “And just a little bit of it can damage the whole load. Trying to get clean material, or clean that material, is so important,”

In May 2021, KAB released its 2020 National Litter Study, which provides a comprehensive understanding of the quantity, composition, and sources of litter along roadways, waterways, and in non-roadway areas across the country. The 2020 study is a follow up to KAB’s 2009 study, which builds on research it started in 1969. Key findings include:

  • Ninety percent of Americans surveyed agree litter is a problem in their state.
  • Roadside litter is down 54% in the past decade.
  • There are still 50 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways.
  • More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile.
  • Cigarette litter makes up the most single littered item, while plastics are the most littered commodity.

“Today is about a dialogue; it’s about talking to each other,” states Randy Hartmann, KAB’s senior director of affiliate operations. “Then it’s about talking to your community to address some of these needs.” ISRI encourages recyclers to get involved with leaders in their communities to ensure they understand the importance of the industry in finding solutions to litter and recycling issues.

Photo courtesy of ISRI. Caption: ISRI Chief Lobbyist Billy Johnson updates Keep America Beautiful® National Conference attendees on passed and pending federal legislation related to recycling.



Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.