Washington — The plastics and recycling industries announced a push for stronger federal investment in recycling infrastructure on April 11, saying that boosting domestic U.S. capacity is critical to deal with challenges like China's recent import ban.
The Plastics Industry Association, the American Chemistry Council and the Association of Plastic Recyclers joined nine other organizations in sending a letter to leaders of Congress supporting a series of financial and regulatory changes they say can boost recycling.
"We believe strongly that a federal investment targeting recycling and recycled materials is critical to America's economic success, will create jobs throughout the United States and yield environmental benefits," the groups said in an April 6 letter to the top four Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.
The changes sought by the dozen associations and non-governmental organizations include retrofitting existing material recovery facilities to better handle flexible film and other packaging, quicker permitting of new facilities and using more recycled material in infrastructure projects.
As well, they are seeking broadened use of private activity bonds for recycling, more grants for state and local governments to expand curbside recycling and more education and training around recycling.
The groups said China's decision last year to sharply clamp down on imports of recycled plastic and other materials is a key motivator, and creates opportunities to use material that used to go to China.
"Recent decisions by China to reduce or end the importation of scrap material ... are disrupting recycling programs throughout the United States, and make it more critical that we make new investments in domestic recycling capacity," they said. "Without significant investment in such capacity, millions more tons of otherwise recoverable and recyclable material will be lost to landfills each year."
The letter noted that of the 37 million tons of U.S. recyclables exported in 2016, 16.2 million tons went to China.
It also cited 2016 EPA data that said recycling generated 757,000 jobs and $36.6 billion in wages.
"Our letter to lawmakers invites the start of a national dialogue on improving our recycling infrastructure, and jump-starting the nation's ability to collect, process and recycle more of these valuable commodities," said Scott DeFife, vice president of government affairs at the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association.
"The nation faces a critical juncture in waste management policies, and the federal government can work with state and local entities to make significant inroads with greater investments in recycling education and infrastructure," he said.
Other signatories include the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, the National Waste & Recycling Association, the Recycling Partnership and the Solid Waste Association of North America, along with the Flexible Packaging Association and the Food Service Packaging Institute.