Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Aug. 22, 2016.
In early August we asked readers to let us know which presidential candidate would be the best for the future of waste and recycling. While opinions were mixed on both candidates, the favorable option among respondents was clear: Hillary Clinton.
Based on our survey, the results broke down as follows: 67% of readers supported Clinton, 30% supported Trump and 3% voted "other." (The "other" category was evenly split between Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders.)
Breaking it down
Clinton's environmental policies, government experience and "the fact that she's not Donald Trump" were among the most common reasons for her support, according to respondents.
Many respondents cited the expectation that she would continue the Obama administration's environmental policies and work to mitigate the effects of climate change. Trump's climate skepticism and plans to reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's authority were very unpopular among Clinton supporters. Among the written responses were the following sentiments in favor of Clinton:
- "Best bet for the waste industry is stable (aka known) regulations, even if we don't agree with all of them."
- "Environmental protection would be rolled back decades under a Trump presidency."
- "I'm not sure Donald Trump even realizes that the environment is having any issues."
Another common theme was Clinton’s government experience and the belief that she would ensure more economic stability. "I believe that gradual change based on compromise and pragmatism are better for the U.S. economy," wrote a respondent.
Trade issues were also seen as an important distinction. "Clinton is stronger on free trade. Recycling industry requires free movement of commodities," wrote another person in opposition to Trump’s policies.
For Trump supporters, his business experience was a key factor that demonstrates an aptitude for management. Supporters also appreciated his plans to lower taxes and eliminate laws that are perceived as burdensome, such as the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the economic potential of what it could mean to “make America great again” was also a common theme. Among the written responses were the following sentiments in favor of Trump:
- "The waste industry is a big business that creates [many] jobs for the middle class. Trump being in business realizes the value of the middle class and the impact we have on the country."
- "I believe Hillary would over regulate the industry, making profits disappear."
- "The manufacturing industry he brings back will need the recycled materials for the booming economy of the Trump era!"
Along the same lines, another respondent made a more detailed case for how they saw a Trump administration influencing the industry:
"When there is no money to be made by recycling, programs fail, businesses close and recycling and diversion rates decline. A Trump presidency has a better chance of improving the economy, which will drive up the demand for recycled commodities, increasing prices and variety of demanded grades, making recycling more viable and attractive for recycling businesses and collection programs," the response read. "Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. will make the demand and pricing for domestic products less reliant on export demand for higher pricing and movement."
As is the case beyond the industry as well, the choice between Clinton or Trump is seen as a lesser of two evils situation for some voters. A similar percentage of each candidate’s votes in the survey was based on opposition rather than support.
Some respondents raised the question of how a president can affect the industry when so much policy is decided on the state and local level. To better understand what role the executive branch plays, Waste Dive looked to a few government relations professionals for perspective.
At the recent Global Sustainability Summit in New Orleans, one panelist said the debate around free trade policy has been a big factor for the food industry.
"It’s a startling shift for the industry and I think it’s going to be several years before we can get this back on track. And if you have Trump in office, I don’t expect any movement or thought for policy surrounding trade," said Michael Gruber, senior vice president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. "I'm hoping for a Clinton presidency because it comes back to stability and predictability."
Food policy has become more intertwined with waste policy in recent years, especially due to federal goals such as reducing food waste 50% by 2030. In projecting the future of sustainability initiatives some said it’s important to look beyond the Oval Office.
"One of the big questions we have is not just who’s going to win the presidential election, but what their cabinet’s going to look like. Because on the sustainability side that’s going to play a huge role in how we move forward with policy," Andrew Harig, senior director of government relations for the Food Marketing Institute, told Waste Dive.
Harig said the success of the 2030 food waste goal will be highly dependent on the next administration’s actions. Though he cautioned that federal gridlock could lead to more immediate policy movement on the state level, Harig said the outcome of this year’s down-ballot races will be key. He pointed to the 2018 farm bill as a potential forum for passing food waste legislation such as date label reform.
Kevin Kraushaar, vice president of government affairs for the National Waste & Recycling Association, said that Congressional funding for infrastructure is also seen as a critical area for the waste and recycling industry. In addition, he said to keep an eye on Congress' role in things such as the renewal of tax credits for compressed natural gas vehicles, newly proposed OSHA reporting requirements and regulations around overtime pay.
Kraushaar said the next president would surely have an effect on the industry but it’s hard to know what that might look like.
"If Secretary Clinton is elected I would expect kind of a continuation of what the Obama administration has been proposing," said Kraushaar. "If Mr. Trump is elected it’s very difficult to speculate where his administration would go, but I would anticipate there would be scaling back of several of the regulatory proposals."
With so many unpredictable factors in this election, and plenty of issues generating more debate than waste and recycling, it’s hard to say what all of it will mean for the industry. Waste Dive will be sure to keep you updated with any new developments over the next 78 days and counting.