Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and co-chair of the U.S. Senate Recycling Caucus, has been a dedicated recycling advocate since his days as naval flight officer. “I was stationed outside of Palo Alto, California, and I found out there was a recycling center about a mile from where I was. I started going with several other officers to recycle and I’ve just never stopped,” he says.
He shared his commitment to recycling and the work in the U.S. Congress this past year to advance recycling legislation during a virtual program organized by ISRI honoring America Recycles Day. He was joined by Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito, R-W.Va., Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The presentation was introduced by Billy Johnson, ISRI’s chief lobbyist, who welcomed the senators and reviewed the recent bipartisan legislative successes such as the passage of the RECYCLE Act, a component of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that ISRI co-authored, and the two Save Our Seas acts to address ocean plastics. “Recycling is not just an activity that every one of us can do every day, it’s also an essential part of the global manufacturing supply chain that produces so many of the products we use every day, from cars to appliances to the buildings we are in today,” Johnson says.
Both senators recognized ISRI as a leader in highlighting the importance of the recycled materials industry and its role in strengthening the economy as well as protecting the environment and reducing waste.
Both senators noted that recycling is an issue that brings members of Congress together across party lines. Carper recognized his fellow Recycling Caucus co-chair, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., for his partnership. “One of the things that pulls us together is the Recycling Caucus,” Carper says.
Moore-Capito agreed. “Recycling continues to be an issue where we find common ground and make real progress,” she says. “We’ve added much needed resources to continue to improve domestic recycling by passing the Save Our Seas Acts and the Infrastructure Investment Act, but we haven’t stopped there.”
This past year, Sens. Carper, Boozman, and Moore-Capito collaborated on legislation to improve the state of recycling in the U.S. Through their efforts two pieces of bipartisan legislation unanimously passed the Senate—the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA) and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (RIAA).
RCAA would direct EPA to collect recycling and composting data in all 50 states including materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and curbside collection programs. The bill also tackles a vital issue for the recycled materials industry that no recycling legislation has done before. It lays out ISRI’s definitions of recycling, recyclable materials, and processing.
RIAA would establish a pilot program to promote recycling in underserved communities. The bill focuses on improving rural recycling systems by directing EPA to provide grants for projects that make these programs more accessible for these and other underserved communities.
“These two bills have since been introduced in the House of Representatives and we continue to work with our House colleagues to get them across the finish line this year, not next year,” Carper says. “The support we’ve received from ISRI and other industries for both pieces of legislation has been really critical to their successes.”
He thanked ISRI and other industries for their work to improve the nation’s recycling systems and recognized the importance of recycling in bringing together representatives and staff from both parts to work together to support a common cause.
“Passing these bills by unanimous consent through the full Senate is no small feat,” Moore-Capito says. “We know these bills would never have passed the Senate without the invaluable input and support from ISRI and many other stakeholders.” She thanked ISRI and everyone who provided feedback and written statements of support. She joined Carper in noting the current efforts to work with House members to get the bills enacted into law. “My staff always jokes with me that there are few industries as engaged than the recycling industry, and I would have to agree,” she says. “We all share the view recycling is a win-win, both for the environment and the economy. I look forward to building on our bipartisan work in the next congress.”
In his closing remarks, Carper noted the importance of being a steward of the environment. “We need to leave the planet in better shape than how we found it, and recycling can help us do just that,” he says.