Federal bills aim to improve rural recycling, boost data collection and explore national composting strategy

Diving brief:

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee previewed two bills intended to expand broad national recycling and waste reduction goals during a hearing on Wednesday.
  • Sketch Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Actled by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., would direct the US EPA to provide grants between $1 million and $15 million each for projects that make recycling programs more accessible to rural and disadvantaged communities, especially star recycling systems comprising transfer stations, and those that rely on public-private partnerships.
  • Sketch Recycling and Composting Responsibility Actdirected by the senses. Tom Carper, D-Del., and John Boozman, R-Ark., Would lead the EPA to collect a wide range of recycling and composting data, including FRM inventories and curbside collection programs , and “exploring opportunities” for the implementation of a national composting strategy.

Overview of the dive:

Although the bills have yet to be tabled, the hearing was a notable moment in the federal government’s efforts to expedite recycling-related measures in recent years. These bills are both bipartisan and supported by core EPW members, all of which supporters see as essential to advancing efforts in Congress.

Proponents also see the two bills working in tandem to build near-term support for recycling and composting infrastructure projects. Although the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides approximately $350 million for recycling-related purposes – an amount that Carper called “unprecedented levels of funding for recycling infrastructure and educational programs” – supporters say an infusion of additional data and funding is needed to advance recycling and composting goals more ambitious goals set out by the EPA in its National Recycling Strategy and elsewhere .

Without this additional support, “we cannot realistically advance a national strategy [for] recover products and packaging in a meaningful way, and we will not be able to realize the full benefits associated with large-scale recycling and composting,” Rhodes Yepsen, executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute, said during the hearing.

Carper and Boozman’s bill calls for the collection and maintenance of databases of specific recycling and composting data, which the EPA would use to help increase the nation’s recycling and composting rate and reduce waste. The information could then be used to help the EPA create best practices for labeling guidance, education campaigns or other efforts, according to a draft discussion of the bill.

The bill directs the EPA to prepare a feasibility report for a possible national residential composting strategy. It would assess the current composting infrastructure, study how manufacturers and businesses are using compostable packaging and foodservice items, and detail the barriers that currently make composting difficult. Anaerobic digestion is not specifically mentioned in the bill.

The bill also directs the EPA to create a detailed inventory of public and private MRFs nationwide, including the number in each state and the materials each processes. A separate inventory would show the number of community curbside or drop-off recycling and composting programs, the materials they accept, inbound contamination and capture rates, and the number of residents who face barriers to recycling. ‘use such benefits. The EPA should also determine the percentage of recyclable materials that are “diverted from a circular market,” either through disposal or other means, and provide annual reports of end-market sales in dollars per ton for recycled materials processed by FRMs.

In addition, the bill would require an annual report detailing federal agencies’ total recycling and composting rates and purchases of products containing recyclable or compostable materials.

Its supporters include International Paper, a major pulp and paper producer. The company says more accessible recycling data would help guide its business decisions and allow it to plan more products made with recycled content. the The American Forest & Paper Association also supports both bills, saying the legislation will help the industry continue to use recycled fiber in products.

“As a data-driven company, we understand that to improve something, you have to be able to measure it,” said Levell Hairston, vice president and general manager of recycling and recovered fiber for the company, during of the hearing.

Pashon Murray, founder of compost organization Detroit Dirt, added that bipartisan national support is needed to help spur innovative community-based programs in urban and rural areas.

Capito’s bill directs the EPA to develop a pilot program to inject funds into areas without access to or near reliable recycling. “Recycling services, especially curbside recycling, are not available in many rural communities like those in my home state of West Virginia,” she said, adding that the State has the United States. the lowest overall recycling rate for materials other than cardboard.

His bill calls for funding for infrastructure projects in underserved communities, particularly through model “hub and spoke” projects in which small, usually rural communities feed recycling to more centralized processing centers in more large community centers. Transfer stations are a common feature of the model.

Grants will go to projects that build transfer stations, expand curbside recycling collection programs “where appropriate” or leverage public-private partnerships to reduce collection and transportation costs. Local governments, states, Native American tribes or public-private partnerships would be eligible for funding, and priority would go to projects in communities without MRFs within 150 miles, according to the bill for discussion. The draft does not mention a total amount of funding to be set aside for grants, but individual grants could be up to $15 million each and would be made available for fiscal years 2023-2027. recycling education.

Hub-and-spoke systems make rural collection efforts more profitable for MRFs, as they are able to aggregate materials from many smaller areas to produce sufficient volume to market and sell, while reducing transportation costs, a said Ben Harvey, president of Waste Connections. EL Harvey & Sons subsidiary. He testified in support of both bills on behalf of the National Waste and Recycling Association, of which he is president.

The Solid Waste Association of North America was still reviewing the bills, but CEO David Biderman said the organization is encouraged to see recycling discussed on a national scale as recycling markets and municipal programs struggle with infrastructure issues and other barriers. “Congressional action that supports efforts to expand and improve recycling programs and systems in the United States is welcome,” he said in a press release.

Despite the high-profile rollout of the bills, both face a long way through Congress. Many recycling-related bills have been introduced in recent years, but only the Safeguarding Our Seas Act 2.0 and the RECYCLE Act provisions enacted in this year’s infrastructure bill have been enacted since 2020. The contents of these bills provide funding for recycling education, local recycling infrastructure, and data collection on plastics recycling. A GAO Report 2020 highlighted the need for better data on recycling, saying governments and industry “do not have enough information to support decision-making around recycling.”

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