Washington — Research on plastics recycling technologies would get a federal funding boost of at least $85 million a year for five years under new legislation in Congress.
The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act, introduced June 16, calls for establishing a federal research program around plastics waste reduction and recycling, as well as a national strategy for cutting plastic waste.
One of the lead authors, Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., said the bill is an attempt to help the U.S. catch up with historic underinvestment in recycling, a problem that was exposed in 2018 when China and other countries decided to sharply limit their imports of plastic scrap.
"There are plenty of reasons for why and how we got here," Stevens said. "However, a major factor is because we failed as a nation to invest in domestic recycling infrastructure and policies to account for the growing demand for plastic."
A statement from Stevens, the chairwoman of the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology, said the U.S. recycles only 9 percent of its plastic waste.
The bill would direct various federal agencies to support research on recycling technologies, including chemical recycling, innovative plastic waste remediation, the health impacts of microplastics, including ocean pollution, and other topics.
It would also direct the National Institute of Standards and Technologies to develop standards around plastics recycling technologies, and have an interagency committee develop a strategic plan for reducing plastic waste.
Stevens launched the Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force last year.
The bill, which was also sponsored by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, was praised by plastics industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association.
ACC said the bill would better align the expertise of different agencies around plastic waste.