MSW Recycling Bill Introduced in Congress
By: Bobby Elliott

A bill recently introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives aims to up the national recycling rate by requiring manufacturers to use more recycled materials in their products.

Introduced July 30 by Mike Honda, a Democrat representing California's 17th District in Silicon Valley, the Land Based Marine Debris Reduction Act of 2014 would give the U.S. EPA the authority "to require the manufacturer of the product or packaging to use recovered materials of that or another category in the product or packaging." These new regulations would go toward achieving a 50 percent national recycling rate by 2020 and a 65 percent recycling rate by 2030, according to the bill, and lead to reductions in landfilling and littering.

"Making people aware of the problem is the first step," Rep. Honda said in a press release. "The second is letting people know they can be part of the solution. By encouraging industry to use more recycled materials, we safeguard the sustainable use of our precious natural resources."

Chaz Miller, the director of policy and advocacy at the National Waste & Recycling Association, framed Honda's municipal solid waste (MSW) legislation in historical terms. "This is the first MSW recycling bill to be introduced on the Hill in 20 years," Miller said. "It's a statement from Congress to get the U.S. EPA to focus on MSW," Miller said.

He also noted that the recycling rate goals attached to the legislation are "aspirational." Just to get close to a 50 percent recycling rate, Miller stressed, U.S. residents would need to recycle 100 percent of product packaging generated, a fact that demonstrates the high level of organics in the MSW stream.

Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), issued a statement to Resource Recycling in regards to the legislation.

"ISRI commends Congressman Honda for his efforts to keep recyclable materials, including product packaging, out of solid waste landfills and waterways," Wiener stated. "Directing these materials to recycling facilities where they can be recycled into secondary raw materials used to make new products is good for the environment and creates jobs. The recycling industry is committed to working with Rep. Honda, his staff and others to strengthen this legislation to better differentiate between recyclables and solid waste and in other areas to help it meet its intended goals."

The bill, which Miller said likely will not be taken up until next year, has been referred to the influential Committee on Energy & Commerce (E&C), a 54-member group made up of 30 Republicans and 24 Democrats. It will likely head to the E&C subcommittee on the Environment and Energy, led by Illinois Republican John Shimkus.

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