Washington — Plastics industry executives fanned out over Washington Sept. 12 for their annual lobbying day with a new message: a push for more federal government spending on recycling to try to address public concerns about plastics in the environment.
The lobbying fly-in traditionally focuses on more pocketbook issues like trade policy, worker training and regulation, and those remained high on the agenda for the more than 100 executives who took part.
But rising concerns over plastic waste and worries over bans or taxes on plastic packaging led to an expanded focus this year.
"Recycling infrastructure is really the new key point that we want to raise," said Scott DeFife, vice president of government affairs for the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association, the lead organizer among five trade associations at the event.
For the industry groups, that means pushing for Congress and President Donald Trump's administration to change how Washington views federal infrastructure spending.
Instead of being a vehicle mainly for building things like roads and airports, they want some federal infrastructure spending to be earmarked for city and state recycling operations such as materials recovery facilities and waste to energy plants.
"We're saying some infrastructure spending should be on recycling, waste to energy, whatever needs to be done to properly handle plastic waste," said Chairman Wylie Royce. "On top of that you're creating recycling jobs."
DeFife said the effort is in its very early stages and the association is still putting together detailed legislative proposals.
But including it as part of lobbying day is another sign of how waste issues are taking a higher profile for industry groups: the CEO of the American Chemistry Council, for example, in June said he was delaying his planned retirement specifically to work on plastics waste issues.
DeFife said the federal government should see the global trade in recyclables as it sees world trade in wheat or other farm commodities.
"In D.C. they think of infrastructure as roads and bridges, and we're trying to get them to think of our material as an asset," DeFife said. "It should be invested in."