- The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) officially released a wide-ranging 2017 legislative agenda with many long-time priorities that it might have to fight harder for amid "much uncertainty in Washington." Trade policy has been particularly volatile, leading ISRI to reaffirm its support for existing trade laws, NAFTA, freer trade with fewer "artificial barriers" and the elimination of export tariffs.
- Tax policy was also a primary focus, particularly the depreciation allowance for recycling equipment. ISRI advocates for protecting the 50% allowance established in 2008 and potentially raising that to a 100% allowance to encourage more investment in the industry.
- ISRI cited priorities that involve the Environmental Protection Agency, where policy is still being determined under a controversial new administrator. This includes expedited completion of a study on the safety of recycled crumb rubber in synthetic turf, continuation of the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, consideration of the industry in new rulemaking on chemicals and toxic substances, and other priorities.
The U.S. recycling industry generates nearly $117 billion in economic activity per year, as highlighted in a recent ISRI report, which means it can be affected by global and local policy changes. Trade deals, tax policy, shipping networks, workplace safety and environmental regulations can have big effects on members. Federal disclosure reports show that so far this year ISRI has spent more than $60,000 lobbying for these causes in Congress, including specific action on the Secure E-Waste Export and Recycling Act.
Yet this work can be more challenging due to a misunderstanding among some government officials and the general media about how the industry works. Too often in the eyes of some industry professionals recycling can be mixed with waste, both anecdotally and in a regulatory sense. In addition to this barrier of understanding, ISRI's seemingly fundamental differences with the Trump administration in some areas could make it difficult to achieve parts of its agenda. The group came out in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership before it was canceled and remains supportive of programs such as the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy that have been targeted in budget cut proposals.
At the same time, it may find more common ground on the need for infrastructure investment — ideally using recycled materials — or resuming the U.S. Mint's Mutilated Coin Redemption Program. Some priorities, such as exempting recyclers from third-party liability in state Superfund laws, advancing "right to repair" legislation and opposing "one bin" mixed waste processing projects are more focused on the state or local level. Other agenda items, such as continued federal funding for the DOE's REMADE Institute, could also be a source of common ground because of their potential to improve domestic manufacturing processes and create jobs.