National Recycling Measures Have Broad Business Support

Congress Expected to Continue Deliberations on Two Bills

National Recycling Measures Have Broad Business Support
Digital Exclusive

Two major pieces of federal legislation that could help overhaul national recycling systems have garnered support from numerous business groups beyond the packaging and flexible packaging industry, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Observers expect deliberations on the two bills—the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act of 2023 (RIAA) and the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA)—to continue this year after the U.S. Senate showed support in 2023 before measures languished in the U.S. House of Representatives.

RIAA directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a pilot grant project to fund recycling projects at the local and state levels. RCAA directs EPA to improve reporting on recycling and composting. Supporters say the efforts could be a step toward removing confusion caused by the myriad of recycling collection systems, which by some estimates are more than 10,000 systems serving communities nationwide.

“We agree that better understanding current recycling rates and accessibility of recycling infrastructure and solid waste collection in disadvantaged communities add important tools that can bolster the circular economy and increase recycling in communities across the United States,” the chamber said in a statement. “These bills build on the recycling provisions contained in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, together with important actions in the new National Recycling Strategy.”

The chamber’s statement, which was sent to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, mentions that the bills are supported by various trade groups, including the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), The Aluminum Association, and the Consumer Brands Association (CBA).

In an article in the March/April 2024 issue of FlexPack VOICE® magazine titled “On Watch in Washington,” John Hewitt, CBA’s vice president of packaging and sustainability, says the bills support the commitments that CBA-member companies have made to improving sustainability in their products.

As Congress debated the bills in 2023, some of the details such as the costs of the two bills had not been estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, according to Congress.Gov where details of the bills can be found.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works says the bills have received support from a range of environmental advocates and business groups, including NAM.

“Providing clarity on rates, accessibility, and infrastructure will all lead to a more comprehensive approach to pursuing a genuine circular economy,” Chris Morris, NAM director of energy and resources policy, said in a statement. “These bipartisan provisions are a positive first step in Congress’ role in developing federal standards that can be used in both domestic processes and international recycling discussions.”

U.S. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the EPW Committee, and John Boozman (R-Ark.), also a member of the EPW Committee, led the efforts to advance the legislation in 2023.

 “These bills would implement commonsense policies and programs to improve access to recycling across the country,” Capito says.

In its support of the bills, the Paper Recycling Coalition (PRC) says the initiatives would establish baseline data on recycling in the United States, study the amount of recyclable material being diverted to incinerators and landfills, and provide funding to communities to improve recycling access.

“PRC believes RCAA will fill an important gap that is currently lacking in federal recycling policy discussions: data, especially as it relates to recycling rates, material recovery facilities, federal recycled product procurement, and the diversion of recyclable materials to energy uses,” it said in a statement.

Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE®.