Stabenow, Portman Introduce RECYCLE Act to Improve Recycling

Friday, November 22, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced new legislation – S. 2941, the RECYCLE Act – to create a new federal grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs. This legislation will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream. U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Todd Young (R-IN) are original cosponsors of this legislation.


Reports have indicated that consumer confusion on how to properly recycle is one of the top recycling challenges, and that education and outreach both increase participation in recycling and decrease contamination.


According to EPA, the recycling rate in the U.S. is 35.2 percent and $9 billion worth of recyclable materials are thrown away each year, which presents a big opportunity to improve our nation’s recycling systems. In addition, recycling offers numerous environmental and economic benefits, including diverting materials from landfills, using less energy to reprocess recycled material - which reduces emissions - and creating jobs. EPA’s 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report found that recycling supports more than 757,000 jobs and $6.7 billion annually in tax revenues.


“To improve recycling rates across our country, local communities must have the right tools to recycle in an effective way. Senator Portman and I introduced this bill to help households understand what can and cannot be recycled and invest in programs that improve recycling practices across the country,” said Senator Stabenow.


“Education and outreach is a key pillar to improving recycling rates and reducing contamination in our recycling stream,” said Senator Portman. “Reports have indicated that one-third of materials that households put into their recycling bins end up in landfills and are not actually recycled. This is in part because there is confusion about what can actually be recycled, which leads to contamination of materials that could otherwise be recycled but instead are landfilled. Education is a key component in both increasing the amount of material that is being recycled and ensuring that the material being put into community and residential recycling programs is actually being recycled. I am pleased to be introducing the RECYCLE Act with Senator Stabenow today, and look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line.”


“Recycling is essential to keeping our lands, waters, and other natural treasures free of plastic and other sources of pollution, helping to preserve our nation’s stunning beauty,” said Senator Collins.  “This legislation would authorize grants for recycling programs throughout the country to ensure communities and consumers are aware of ways to increase the quantity and quality of recycled materials and to provide states and local governments with best practices on improving recycling rates.”

“Recycling is in Oregon’s DNA, dating back to our state’s pioneering ‘bottle bill.’ But with so many things to sort and constantly evolving rules, recycling often becomes a headache for even the most seasoned or best intentioned consumer,” Senator Wyden said. “The RECYCLE Act empowers Americans to recycle with ease and avoid contamination that often causes recyclable materials to end up in the landfill. A little bit of clarity will go a long way towards helping the conscientious consumer and strengthening domestic recycling markets.”  

“By providing education opportunities, we can increase the rate of recycling which benefits both our environment and local communities.  The state of Indiana has prioritized expanding recycling education, and I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Young.


The RECYCLE Act would:

-       Authorize $15 million/year over five years in grants to States, local governments, Indian tribes, nonprofits, and public private partnerships to educate and inform consumers and households about their residential and community recycling programs.  

-       Direct EPA to develop a model recycling program toolkit for States, local governments, Indian tribes, and partners to deploy in order to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination in the recycling stream.

-       Require EPA to more frequently review and revise, if appropriate, its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, which designate products containing recycled materials and provides recommended practices for federal agencies to purchase such products.


The text of the bill is here


Supporters include: The Recycling Partnership, National Association of Manufacturers, Solid Waste Association of North America, National Waste & Recycling Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association, American Beverage Association, American Chemistry Council, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Paper Recycling Coalition, American Forest & Paper Association, Can Manufacturers Institute, The Association of Plastic Recyclers, Plastics Industry Association, Glass Packaging Institute, Procter & Gamble, Owens-Illinois, Reserve Management Group, Resinate Materials Group, KW Plastics, Evangelical Environmental Network, Advanced Drainage Systems, Construction and Demolition Recycling Association, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and Wildlife Conservation Society.