Phillips Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral RECYCLE Act to Reduce Waste and Protect the Environment from Plastic Pollution

March 26, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and David Joyce (R-OH) and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the RECYLE Act, a bipartisan bill that would lead to vast improvements in community and residential recycling programs.

Recycling is one of the simplest ways to protect the environment, yet consumer confusion often impedes efforts to reduce waste. In fact, according to the EPA, nearly $9 billion worth of recyclable materials are thrown away each year. The RECYCLE Act would fund education and outreach programs meant to increase recycling rates and share best practices across the country. Improved recycling is especially important as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for PPE and other single-use plastics has increased waste by an estimated 30%, with the majority of that waste ending up in landfills or the natural environment.

“Plastic pollution is one of the worst environmental crises in decades, yet across the country, people remain confused about how to dispose of materials responsibly,” said Rep. Phillips. “That’s why I worked with my colleagues on the RECYCLE Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that gives local communities the tools they need to keep our lands, rivers, and lakes pollutant free. Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk and prove once and for all that preserving our environment is an American issue, not a partisan one.”

“Having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, I know how critical recycling is to keeping Northeast Ohio and its natural resources free of plastic and other types of pollution,” said Rep. Joyce, Co-Chair of the House Recycling Caucus. “However, nearly a third of all items that are recycled end up in landfills due to ever-evolving rules and contamination. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help households understand how to properly participate in recycling programs that keep our communities clean. By doing so, we will not only be better stewards of our environment, but we will also continue to support the hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity generated by the recycling industry.”

“One of the obstacles to strong neighborhood recycling programs is confusion by consumers about what can and can’t be recycled. This bill will address that confusion and help improve the sustainability and efficiency of recycling programs across the country,” said Senator Stabenow.

“Education and outreach are key to improving recycling rates and reducing contamination in our recycling stream,” said Senator Portman. “One third of materials that households put into their recycling bins end up in landfills and are not actually recycled. This is partly due to confusion about what can actually be recycled. Education is a key component to both increasing the amount of material that is being recycled and ensuring that the material being put into community and residential recycling programs is actually being recycled. I am pleased to be introducing the RECYCLE Act and look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line.”

The RECYCLE Act would:

  • Authorize $15 million/year over five years in grants to states, local governments, tribal governments, nonprofits, and public private partnerships to educate and inform consumers and households about their residential and community recycling programs.
  • Direct EPA to develop a model recycling program toolkit for states, tribal governments, and partners to deploy in order to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination in the recycling stream.
  • Require EPA to more frequently review and revise, if appropriate, its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, which designate products containing recycled materials and provides recommended practices for federal agencies to purchase such products.

Supporters include: Advanced Drainage Systems, American Beverage Council, American Chemistry Council, American Forest & Paper Association, AMERIPEN, Can Manufacturers Institute, Construction and Demolition Recycling Association, Consumer Brands Association, Evangelical Environmental Network, Glass Packaging Institute, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, International Paper Company, National Association of Manufacturers, National Waste & Recycling Association, National Wildlife Federation, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois, Paper Recycling Coalition, Plastics Industry Association, Procter & Gamble, Pulp & Paperworks’ Resource Council, Reserve Management Group, Solid Waste Management Association of North America, The Association of Plastic Recyclers, The Recycling Partnership, U.S. Conference of Mayors, United Steelworkers, Wildlife Conservation Society, Yum! Brands, McDonald’s Corporation.