Rep. Keith Ellison proposes bill for $100M in EPA zero waste grants

Dive Brief:

  • Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has re-introduced the Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act, which would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to distribute $100 million in grants between fiscal years 2018 and 2023.
  • The grants would be used to help local governments with waste prevention, reuse and recycling strategies. This could include educational programs, technology development and capital investments in processing infrastructure.
  • Grant applicants would need to have specific "zero waste" goals in place, with additional weight given to any that had "statutorily committed" to those goals. Proposals that factored in job creation, local manufacturing needs, environmental justice, school programs and other criteria would also be favored. The awardees would be expected to report data to the EPA and attend conferences organized by the agency to share their experiences with other municipalities.

Dive Insight:

Ellison's bill was originally introduced in 2015 and never received a committee hearing. This current version has been endorsed by the National Recycling Coalition, Zero Waste USA and the American Sustainable Business Council. The only notable difference in this new bill is the addition of definitions for "reuse" (which includes repair), "waste prevention," and "zero waste." The definition of "zero waste," which includes circular economy principles and excludes combustion, matches the Zero Waste International Alliance's definition verbatim. 

While certain EPA regions do currently award grants for these types of projects no national program currently exists focused on recycling infrastructure. When pitching the idea during a 2015 episode of his podcast, Ellison highlighted the success of Minneapolis-based Eureka Recycling and emphasized the potential for job creation. The connection between increased recycling and employment was detailed by the EPA in a recent report.

Many cities now want to achieve "zero waste," but choosing the right technologies and educating residents can be complicated. This level of grant funding could have a sizable benefit for municipal programs, as well as the hauling and processing companies that serve them. Though with Ellison planning to resign if he becomes chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a Republican-controlled Congress and a potential EPA administrator that plans to take the agency in a different direction, the bill may be overshadowed.

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Filed Under: Recycling Regulation Waste Diversion