In November of last year, recycling received a great deal of attention at the federal level. That was in part because of America Recycles Day, which is recognized annually every Nov. 15. In 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continued an initiative it began on America Recycles Day in 2018, the Recycling Summit. The agency also hosted the America Recycles Innovation Fair Nov. 14, 2019.

The America Recycles Innovation Fair showcased advances in recycling technology, product development and materials usage, connecting the public as well as potential investors with recycling innovators.

The 2019 Recycling Summit highlighted the work done by the signatories of the 2018 America Recycles Pledge and the EPA, which includes creating a “virtual clearinghouse” led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that provides municipalities and local governments with tools, resources, case studies and best practices to improve their recycling programs; developing a list of funding opportunities for recycling infrastructure improvement; and developing a draft definition of recycling.

“The federal attention on recycling did not stop with the EPA’s efforts.”

Additional work on the part of pledge participants can be seen in the national framework the EPA developed to help advance U.S. recycling. (For more on the framework, click here.)

The federal attention on recycling did not stop with the EPA’s efforts. A week after the Recycling Summit, U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Debbie Stabenow introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a new federal grant program through the EPA to help educate households and consumers about residential and community recycling programs. The Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education (RECYCLE) Act of 2019 (S.B. 2941) is designed to help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream. (Read more about the RECYCLE Act in this issue.)

That legislation joined the Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Value of Expanding Recycling (RECOVER) Act, H.R. 5115, which was introduced by U.S. Reps. Tony Cárdenas and Larry Bucshon on America Recycles Day. This bill would allocate federal grants to states and municipalities to invest in recycling programs and infrastructure, including upgrading material recovery facilities (MRF) and enhancing recovery and collection.

We’ll be watching and reporting on the progress of this legislation, which, if passed, could help MRF operators make the equipment investments they need to respond to the changing material stream.