Portman, Stabenow Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral RECYCLE Act to Improve Nation’s Recycling Programs

March 23, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced legislation, 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. U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are original cosponsors of this legislation.

Reports indicate consumer confusion on how to properly recycle is one of the top recycling challenges. Through education and outreach, the RECYCLE Act will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream.

According to the EPA, the recycling rate in the U.S. is 32.1 percent, which presents an opportunity to improve our nation’s recycling systems. Recycling offers numerous benefits, including diverting materials from landfills, using less energy to reprocess recycled material, which reduces emissions, and supporting the economy. EPA’s 2020 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report found that recycling supports more than 681,000 jobs and generates $5.5 billion annually in tax revenues.

“Education and outreach are key to improving recycling rates and reducing contamination in our recycling stream,” said Senator Portman. “One third of materials that households put into their recycling bins end up in landfills and are not actually recycled. This is partly due to confusion about what can actually be recycled. Education is a key component to 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 and look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line.”

“One of the obstacles to strong neighborhood recycling programs is confusion by consumers about what can and can’t be recycled. This bill will address that confusion and help improve the sustainability and efficiency of recycling programs across the country,” said Senator Stabenow.

“Having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, I know how critical recycling is to keeping Northeast Ohio and its natural resources free of plastic and other types of pollution,” said Congressman Joyce, Co-Chair of the House Recycling Caucus. “However, nearly a third of all items that are recycled end up in landfills due to ever-evolving rules and contamination. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help households understand how to properly participate in recycling programs that keep our communities clean. By doing so, we will not only be better stewards of our environment, but we will also continue to support the hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity generated by the recycling industry.”

“Plastic pollution is one of the worst environmental crises in decades, yet across the country, people remain confused about how to dispose of materials responsibly,” said Congressman Phillips. “That’s why I worked with my colleagues on the RECYCLE Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that gives local communities the tools they need to keep our lands, rivers, and lakes pollutant free. Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk and prove once and for all that preserving our environment is an American issue, not a partisan one.”

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: Advanced Drainage Systems, American Beverage Council, American Chemistry Council, American Forest & Paper Association, AMERIPEN, Can Manufacturers Institute, Construction and Demolition Recycling Association, Consumer Brands Association, Evangelical Environmental Network, Glass Packaging Institute, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, International Paper Company, National Association of Manufacturers, National Waste & Recycling Association, National Wildlife Federation, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois, Paper Recycling Coalition, Plastics Industry Association, Procter & Gamble, Pulp & Paperworks’ Resource Council, Reserve Management Group, Solid Waste Management Association of North America, The Association of Plastic Recyclers, The Recycling Partnership, U.S. Conference of Mayors, United Steelworkers, Wildlife Conservation Society, Yum! Brands, McDonald’s Corporation.