Tracking the future of US recycling policy in Congress
Spurred by market challenges, the Hill has seen a historic influx of big bills. Keep up on all the latest developments with our legislative tracker.
Published January 29, 2020
Updated November 1, 2023
Nov. 1: The most recent update in this tracker is the reintroduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, a sweeping bill with numerous bottle bill, EPR and recycled content provisions. The Reduce Food Loss and Waste Act, which would create a certification program for businesses that divert food waste from disposal, was also introduced.
International trade decisions, fluctuating commodity markets and concerns about infrastructure have taken a toll on U.S. recycling programs in the past few years, sparking Congress and the Biden administration to take action on a number of recycling-related initiatives. The coronavirus pandemic stalled legislative momentum in 2020 — with the exception of Save Our Seas 2.0 — but numerous bills made a comeback in 2021 and 2022.
The legislature also held numerous hearings and published letters and reports in an attempt to advance recycling initiatives. See a summary of those actions from the 117th Congress.
Proposed legislation could dramatically change the way the U.S. handles recycling in the next few years, whether it’s through infrastructure investments, organics recycling, education, product bans, or bottle bills and extended producer responsibility initiatives. If you have any updates, please email email@example.com.
Design and development by Nami Sumida. Additional reporting by E.A. Crunden and Cole Rosengren.
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The legislation calls for numerous, sweeping waste and recycling initiatives meant to reduce plastic waste. Major provisions include creating a nationwide deposit return system and establishing extended producer responsibility for makers of beverage containers and plastic packaging.
Lawmakers introduced the bill in 2020 and 2021, but those bills failed to move forward. Democrat bill sponsors Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., say the 2023 version has some “strengthened” aspects such as requiring all single-use beverage containers and packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2033. It also has more “robust” requirements for incorporating PCR and eliminating toxic substances in beverage containers, they said.
It would also standardize labeling for recycling and composting receptacles, restrict the EPA’s National Recycling Strategy from including facilities that process plastic waste through chemical recycling, provide grant opportunities for reuse and refill projects and more.
Groups like the American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association slammed the bill, calling it “more extreme” and “even worse and less collaborative” than previous years’ versions the groups also spoke out against. Supporters include The Ocean Conservancy and numerous other environmental groups.
The bill was introduced on Oct. 26 and referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
The bill aims to recognize businesses that reduce food waste or donate excess edible food to worthy causes by offering a new Food Loss and Waste Reduction Certification. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., sponsor the bill.
The proposed certification, led by the Department of Agriculture, would indicate businesses that have worked to increase food donations to nonprofit organizations or have improved their “alternative disposal methods” by redirecting food anaerobic digestion, composting or animal feed, according to the bill. The certification would be similar to existing certifications like ENERGY STAR and the BioPreferred Program, Grassley said in a statement.
The USDA would need to create criteria that businesses and organizations would have to meet to receive the certification, plus a verification process and label businesses and organizations could use.
Supporters include the National Restaurant Association, the Consumer Brands Association, ReFED, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.
Sept. 19, 2023
REDUCE Act (2023)
The bill would establish an excise tax of 10 cents per pound for virgin plastics used to make single-use products like plastic packaging, beverage containers and food service products starting in 2024. That tax would increase to 15 cents per pound in 2025 and 20 cents in 2026.
The money would go toward a Plastic Waste Reduction Fund meant for projects such as recycling infrastructure improvements, marine debris reduction and cleanup and programs to address plastics’ environmental justice and pollution impacts.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), sponsors the bill in the Senate along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and 26 members of the House of Representatives.
The Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems Act aims to help recycled plastic markets compete with markets for virgin plastics, Whitehouse said in a news release. “A polluter fee would hold the biggest plastics companies accountable for the damage they’ve caused and increase the amount of plastic that actually gets recycled,” he said.
The bill sets certain exemptions to the tax, such postconsumer resin and virgin resins that are exported. Plastic used to make medical products, or packaging for medicines and personal hygiene products; and plastics used to ship hazardous materials, would also be exempt. Companies that produce or import small amounts of virgin plastic resin or earn less than $25 million in gross receipts would also be exempt from the fee.
A similar version of the bill was previously introduced in 2021.
Plastic industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council strongly oppose the bill, saying it would harm consumers and introduce alternative packaging materials that might generate higher greenhouse gas emissions. “Unwittingly, it would harm U.S. manufacturing by favoring imported plastic products coming mainly from China, where environmental practices and protections are not as robust as the U.S.,” said Ross Eisenberg, president of ACC’s plastics division.
Advocacy groups such as Californians Against Waste, Fenceline Watch, Greenpeace, Ocean Conservancy, Plastic Pollution Coalition, U.S. PIRG, and the World Wildlife Fund support the bill, saying it targets the “most wasteful plastics” and gives recycled plastics a leg up as a feedstock for new products.
Sept. 6, 2023
Reducing Waste in National Parks Act (2023)
The legislation would allow national parks to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles. It would also allow for a ban of other single-use plastic materials such as bags, expanded polystyrene products and utensils, including plastic utensils “marketed as compostable or biodegradable.”
Bill sponsors, including Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) in the House and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and others in the Senate, said the bill would help curb litter, reduce plastic use by thousands of pounds and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Quigley introduced the bill in the House in July, and Merkley introduced it in the Senate in September.
“Single-use plastic production threatens our nation’s most special places, and inaction to protect these spaces is unacceptable if we want to ensure our treasured national parks are safeguarded for generations to come,” Merkley said in a statement.
Merkley and other Democratic senators have previously asked the National Park Service to reinstate a former federal policy allowing individual parks to enact single-use plastic water bottle bans. The program, started in 2011, was rolled back by the Trump administration in 2017. Parks that once took part in the effort offered alternatives such as bottle-filling stations and refillable bottles for sale.
Some previous versions of this bill, first introduced in 2019, targeted only plastic water bottles, but newer versions, including a version introduced in 2021, covered more types of plastic products. Supporters include Oceana and 5 Gyres, which say more should be done to track and eliminate plastic pollution in national parks.
The bill, which Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers have introduced in various forms over the last few years, aims to restrict the export of untested, non-working electronics. The lawmakers say the material can cause pollution in other countries or fall into the hands of electronics counterfeiters.The 2023 version of the bill is cosponsored by Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
SEERA was reintroduced June 20, 2023 and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Improperly exported electronic scrap from the United States to China is a national security concern because “faulty materials” can find their way into U.S. military equipment, said Rep. Espaillat in a news release. “In recent years, unregulated Chinese companies have regularly repurposed U.S. e-waste to create counterfeit electronics and then put these dangerous products back into the global market.”
The bill requires untested or nonworking electronics — including broken televisions, computers cellphones and other items — to be processed domestically. It would exempt electronics the bill says are at a “low risk” of being counterfeited or dumped, such as correctly refurbished computer equipment and commodity-grade material refined from used electronics.
Tested, working used electronics and recalled electronics that will be exported for repairs would also be exempt from the export restrictions, according to the bill. The bill also calls for certain exporters to undergo a registration process and document shipments.
Proponents like the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, which also supported the 2022 version, said SEERA would protect the environment and national security while also helping U.S. recyclers expand e-scrap processing capacity and creating up to 42,000 jobs.
Though the bill has been reintroduced several times, it has yet to gain traction. In 2022, lawmakers were able to include a version of SEERA in a draft of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a bill that provides an estimated $52.7 billion for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and funds science and technology innovations. Though the CHIPS bill was signed into law, SEERA was not included in the final version.
June 15, 2023
Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (2023)
The billdirects the EPA to determine the feasibility of implementing a national composting strategy by evaluating existing composting programs around the country and publishing a report identifying possible barriers to creating a strategy.
It would also ask the EPA to more formally collect numerous types of nationwide recycling and composting data, including the types of materials local programs accept, state diversion rates, contamination rates and what kind of community access to curbside or drop-off services is available.
The EPA would also create an “inventory” of the number of MRFs and curbside collection programs across the country and a description of the materials that each facility can process.
The bill calls for a report on end-market sales for recycled and composted commodities and asks for a metric to measure how much material ends up disposed instead of recycled.
RCAA would establish voluntary guidelines for state, local and tribal governments to “enhance recycling and composting efforts” through labeling guidelines, educational materials and other resources.
It also asks the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on federal government recycling practices and annual recycling rates of different federal agencies.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced the bill, which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works April 26, just weeks after it was reintroduced. The senators touted the bill’s bipartisan support, saying the nation needs better tools to be able to bolster its composting and overall recycling strategies.
The bill was introduced alongside a recycling infrastructure grant bill, the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (RIAA), which passed out of the same committee on the same day.
Supporters of the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA), most of whom also support the RIAA, include the National Waste and Recycling Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the American Chemistry Council, Plastics Industry Association, American Beverage Association, Association of Plastic Recyclers, American Forest and Paper Association and the Consumer Brands Association, among others.
Ameripen added in an email that it appreciates the RCAA’s effort to “provide critical baseline data to help boost recycling and composting rates and reduce waste by providing an accurate reflection of recycling and composting performance nationally and at the state level.”
RCAA was first introduced in 2022, where it was able to pass the Senate but didn’t have the inertia to pass the House before the end of the year.
The EPA made D.C. eligible for the state program, but not the municipality program. Bill sponsor Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) argues that D.C. is also eligible under the municipality program due to the definition provided in the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act.
Making D.C. eligible for both grants would allow the district to develop recycling strategies and implement specific collection and treatment measures, she said in a statement.
Leaving D.C. out of the municipal program “would leave D.C. poorly positioned to address the challenges of post-consumer wastes in our nation’s waters,” she said in the statement. The EPA has said it expects to require grant applicants to choose projects that will support disadvantaged communities and reduce plastic waste.
Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (2023)
The bill directs the EPA to create a recycling infrastructure pilot program, which would offer grants between $500,000 and $15 million each for projects that make recycling services more accessible to rural and disadvantaged communities that do not have reliable or nearby access to MRFs. Priority for the grants would go to projects in a community where there is “not more than one” MRF within a 75-mile radius of that community.
It sets a total budget of $150 million per year between fiscal years 2023 through 2027, to remain available until expended. The bill prioritizes transfer station infrastructure projects and other “hub-and-spoke” recycling collection systems as well as projects that expand curbside recycling collection programs “where appropriate” or leverage public-private partnerships.
The bipartisan bill, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works just weeks after it was reintroduced. Capito called it a “commonsense... program to improve access to recycling across the country, and create good-paying jobs in our communities.”
The bill was introduced alongside a data collection and composting bill, the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA), which also passed the EPW committee on the same day.
The Solid Waste Association of North America supports the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (RIAA) and is looking over the RCAA before offering official support. Supporters of both bills include the National Waste and Recycling Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the American Chemistry Council, Plastics Industry Association, American Beverage Association, Association of Plastic Recyclers, American Forest and Paper Association and Consumer Brands Association, among others. “The bills make crucial investments and add the tools and resources needed to improve our current recycling systems and evaluate future recycling policies, while improving access to recycling systems in underserved communities,” CBA said in a statement.
RIAA was first introduced in 2022, where it was able to pass the Senate but didn’t have the inertia to pass the House before the end of the year.
The Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion Of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Act would offer grants and loans for composting infrastructure.
The bill would provide $200 million a year through 2031 in grants and loan guarantees for composting infrastructure projects. Applicants could use funding for for large-scale composting facilities as well as smaller projects on farms, in communities or at homes. Eligible projects could include compost collection initiatives, market development strategies or projects that improve existing systems. The money could be used to help fund project permitting, planning and construction, as well as purchases of most types of equipment — except depackaging equipment.
The bill would also designate compost generation and use as an approved practice for U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs. State and local governments, tribes, nonprofits, higher education institutions and farmers would be eligible. The bill gives priority to grant proposals that are led by people of color; or proposals that are inclusive and provide living wages, serve disadvantaged and low-income communities, or incorporate environmental justice principles.
The bill was reintroduced Feb. 1, 2023. Reps. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., sponsor the bill in the House. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., sponsor the bill in the Senate.
Supporters say it can be tough for smaller entities, like local governments and nonprofits, to scale up new projects without meaningful funding. Federal grants and loans can “support detailed planning and the robust infrastructure necessary to reduce food waste,” said Yvette Cabrera, food waste director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. Other supporters include ReFED and the World Wildlife Fund.
The bill was last introduced in 2021 but was not able to move forward. In 2021, the COMPOST Act received support from a coalition of over 60 groups, including Californians Against Waste, packaging companies like Amcor and Dart Container, and groups like the U.S. Composting Council and Biodegradable Products Institute.
The Zero Food Waste Act would offer U.S. EPA grants over ten years forprojects that divert or prevent food waste, or gather data about food waste practices.
The bill would provide $650 million per year in EPA grants through fiscal year 2031 for programs or infrastructure. The goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030, down from 2010 numbers.
Grants could be used for a variety of programs like measuring or collecting data on food waste, building anaerobic digestion projects or rescuing surplus food for donation. Grants could also be used for projects to divert or restrict food waste from landfills and incinerators, or develop markets and demand for compost products, according to the bill.
State, local, tribal, and territorial governments and nonprofits would be eligible for the grants. The bill gives priority to proposals in communities of color, low-income communities, or tribal communities affected by “adverse human health or environmental effects.”
The bill was reintroduced Feb. 1, 2023, by Reps. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., sponsor the bills in the Senate.
Booker said more could be done to address the “economic, environmental, and public health costs of our country’s food waste problem.” The Zero Food Waste bill will help the country invest in more solutions that prevent food waste “or divert it to hungry Americans, or if there’s no other option, ensure that food is composted instead of landfilled,” he said in a statement.
The bill was reintroduced alongside the COMPOST Act, a bill to offer EPA grants for composting infrastructure. Both bills were first introduced in 2021 but were not able to move forward.
Though few recycling and waste bills passed Congress during the 117th Congress session in 2021-2022, President Joe Biden did sign the Food Donation Improvement Act, a bill to expand food recovery efforts and reduce food waste by making it easier for businesses and organizations to donate food.
Dec. 23, 2022
Strategic EV Management Act
The bill aims to help the U.S. government efficiently manage end-of-life electric vehicle batteries in federal fleet vehicles. It would direct the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget to coordinate with various other federal agencies to create a strategic plan for maximizing EV battery longevity and properly recycling or reusing the batteries. President Biden signed the bill into law on Dec. 23, 2022, as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
Bill sponsors say properly recycling EV batteries will help provide a valuable supply of minerals like cobalt “while reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign suppliers for these limited, but critical resources.” Batteries that are no longer efficient enough for vehicles can still be used to store energy for other uses, they said in a statement.
“As the federal government continues to acquire electric vehicles, it is paramount that our agencies are equipped to optimize the management of the growing fleet,” Sen. Hagerty said in the statement.
The Strategic EV Management Act calls for the agencies to collaborate with EV manufacturers and recyclers as well as with scientists, labs and startups working on electric vehicle battery reuse and recycling solutions. The amended version passed in the Senate also calls for a report on how costs to operate and maintain electric vehicles in the federal fleet compare with costs for vehicles with combustion engines.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced nearly identical legislation in the House, saying in a statement that the bill is necessary to “bring our country closer to energy independence.” The legislation comes after an April House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing that highlighted benefits and challenges of electrifying the U.S. Post Service’s fleet.
Supporters included the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Michigan Environmental Council; automakers such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis; and the American Automotive Policy Council.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries did not have a specific position on the bill but said a federal focus on “reuse and recycling will be essential towards building a sustainable and safe supply chain” as demand for EV materials increases. The Solid Waste Association of North America also did not taken a position, but it said “we strongly support efforts to properly manage EV batteries, which should help reduce the frequency of fires at solid waste facilities.”
The bill aimed to further regulate the plastics manufacturing industry by temporarily pausing permitting for certain plastics and chemical recycling facilities, prohibiting export of certain products from those facilities and adding new environmental justice requirements for future permits. It also aimed to incentivize reuse and refill programs. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Jeff Merkley, D- Ore.; and Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Alan Lowenthal D–Calif, sponsored the bill.
The bill would have directed the EPA to create federal targets for plastic source reduction and reuse for all single-use plastic packaging and foodservice ware in the country by Dec. 31, 2027. It would have set a minimum 25% source reduction target, and a reuse and refill target of at least 30% by 2032. The bill also called for an EPA grant program for reuse/refill projects, particularly ones that prioritize environmental justice communities.
The bill also called for the EPA to determine whether certain “high-priority” chemicals used in plastics production, like styrene and vinyl chloride, could possibly be classified as toxic under the Toxic Substances Control Act. It also called for several health studies on plastics.
It also called for plastic production and chemical recycling facilities to follow new EJ rules, such as requiring permit applications to describe potential EJ impacts to fenceline communities and requirements that the facility hold community meetings to get input from neighbors.
Numerous environmental groups, including the Alliance of Mission-Based Recyclers, Break Free from Plastic and others, support the bill. The American Chemistry Council said the bill is “misguided” and would cause significant job loss, while the Plastics Industry Association said the bill fails to recognize plastics’ importance in society.
This bill was introduced in the Senate Dec. 1, 2022 and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The Inflation Reduction Act aimed to spend an estimated $369 billion on energy and climate projects over 10 years. Among its numerous provisions was a call to expand the Section 48 energy investment tax credit to include certain biogas operations that begin construction before 2025. It also called for extending an alternative fuel tax credit that expired last year and boosts credit rates for the 45Q carbon sequestration tax credit that could apply to waste projects. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were among the sponsors.
The bill’s main funding mechanism was a corporate minimum tax that would require many companies with more than $1 billion in annual profits to pay a tax rate of at least 15%. It also called for an excise tax on stock buybacks for publicly traded companies.
Senate Democrats see the Inflation Reduction Act as a key path for advancing initiatives to fight climate change and reduce U.S. carbon emissions roughly 40% by 2030. Biogas industry professionals said the bill’s inclusion of tax credits helps frame biogas as a renewable energy solution and will boost demand.
The National Waste & Recycling Association spoke against the 15% corporate tax, saying it will hurt business by diverting funding away from businesses’ ability to invest in new equipment and services.
This bill was introduced Sept. 27, 2021 and passed the Senate Aug. 7, 2022. It passed the House Aug. 12, 2022 and was signed Aug. 16, 2022.
The legislation, meant to expand access to school meals and improve federal supplemental nutrition programs, also included the text of two bills meant to reduce food waste: the School Food Recovery Act and the Food Donation Improvement Act. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said the two bills’ inclusion would “reduce the environmental scourge of food waste, increase donations of unused food,” and help support children with less access to fresh food. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sponsored the bill.
The School Food Recovery Act aimed to create a new USDA grant program for schools to measure, reduce or prevent food waste, with an emphasis on projects that have student participation. It was led by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).
The Food Donation Improvement Act aimed to expand food donation efforts and reduce food waste by updating limited liability protections that bill sponsors say can prevent businesses or organizations from donating food. The bill would have extended liability protections to food donors such as education institutions, grocery stores and restaurants when they give food directly to a person in need or when a recipient pays a reduced cost. It was led by Pingree along with James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) in the House.
This bill was introduced in the House July 20, 2022 and passed House Committee on Education and Labor July 27, 2022.
Whitehouse and Tillis reintroduced the identical Senate version of the bill on March 17, 2022, saying it would help preserve U.S. recycling and repair jobs and “dispose of electronics in an environmentally friendly way.”
The bill would have required untested or nonworking electronics to be processed domestically. It would have exempt electronics it says are at a low risk of being counterfeited or dumped, such as refurbished computer equipment and commodity-grade material refined from used electronics, as well as tested, working used electronics and recalled electronics that will be exported for repairs, bill sponsors said in a news release.
Sponsors said improperly exported electronic scrap from the United States to China is a national security concern, citing a report issued by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that stated counterfeit electronic parts from China in some of the Air Force’s cargo planes could cause safety issues if they proved faulty.
Proponents like the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling said SEERA would protect the environment and national security while also helping U.S. recyclers expand e-scrap processing capacity and create up to 42,000 jobs. The Basel Action Network has supported previous versions because of the organization’s ongoing efforts to track e-scrap overseas by U.S. recyclers. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries opposed the bill, saying it will unfairly restrict trade and will not help protect supply chains from fraud.
Rep. Stivers resigned on May 16, 2021 to become the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and nine bipartisan representatives signed on as cosponsors of the House version of the bill.
Language in the SEERA bill was also included in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a bill that provides an estimated $52.7 billion for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and fund science and technology innovations. The CHIPS bill was signed into law August 9, 2022, but the SEERA e-scrap export language was not included in the final CHIPS bill.
The House version reintroduced May 7, 2021 and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Senate version was reintroduced March 17, 2022.
Following the bill’s March 2022 introduction in the Senate, Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), and Bill Foster (D-Ill.).introduced a companion version in the House on June 16, saying improved recycling data measurement and reporting will help strengthen other recycling systems throughout the country. “This bill would provide more information on this topic that can be used by private businesses to spur innovation and by state and local governments to improve their communities’ recycling programs without imposing one-size-fits-all rules on the federal level,” Rep. Burchett said in a news release.
Under the bill, the EPA would have been required to evaluate current composting infrastructure, determine barriers to improving composting and study the way companies use compostable packaging and food service ware.
The EPA would have also created an inventory of the country’s public and private MRFs, including details on specific materials each can process. Other data the EPA would gather include a count of community curbside or drop-off recycling and composting programs, the total inbound contamination and capture rates for MRF and curbside programs, and the number of residents who face barriers to using recycling and composting services. The EPA would have needed to determine what percentage of recyclable materials is being “diverted from a circular market,” either through disposal or other means, and provide annual reports on dollar-per-ton end market sales for all recycled materials MRFs process. Federal agencies would also need to report recycling rates and efforts to improve recycling and composting.
Organizations such as Detroit Dirt testified during the Feb. 2, 2022 hearing that a national strategy for composting would help standardize what otherwise is a patchwork of regulations and strategies across municipalities and states. Trade groups SWANA and NWRA also support the draft bill’s efforts to gather data that MRF operators and other recyclers can use to make business and market decisions.
The bill was introduced March 3, 2022 in the Senate and reported favorably by Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works April 7, 2022. It passed the Senate July 28, 2022. A companion bill was introduced June 16, 2022 in the House.
The bill would have directed the EPA to create a recycling infrastructure pilot program to provide grants between $500,000 and $15 million each for projects that make recycling services more accessible to rural and disadvantaged communities that do not have reliable or nearby access to MRFs. The earlier discussion draft of the bill proposed grants of between $1 million and $15 million.
The bill did not include a total proposed budget for the grant program but suggests funding be made available between 2023 and 2027. The bill would have prioritized transfer station infrastructure projects and other “hub-and-spoke” recycling collection systems, as well as projects that expand curbside recycling collection programs “where appropriate” or leverage public-private partnerships. Funding would not have been eligible for recycling education programs.
“Recycling services, particularly curbside recycling, are not offered in many rural communities like those in my home state of West Virginia,” said Capito during a February 2022, adding that the state has the lowest overall recycling rate of materials other than cardboard.
Following the bill’s March introduction in the Senate, Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) introduced a companion version in the House on June 23, 2022.
NWRA CEO Darrell Smith applauded the bill’s introduction in the House, calling it “integral to advancing America’s domestic recycling infrastructure and capabilities at a critical time when supply chain shortages are demonstrating the need for greater self-sufficiency.”
A group of 24 stakeholders voiced their support in a joint announcement, where they touted the bill’s goal of improving recycling access and infrastructure in underserved areas. Included on the list are recycling companies WM and Recology, as well as trade groups such as SWANA, ISRI, AF&PA, PLASTICS and American Beverage. Closed Loop Partners, AMP Robotics, and several material or packaging manufacturers were also on the list.
Supporters such as WM and NWRA mentioned support for a hub-and-spoke model as a good way for recyclers to provide resources to rural areas while still collecting enough material to make collection costs and transportation economically feasible.
Separately, the Biodegradable Products Institute supported the discussion draft of the bill, but it asked for the introduced version to modify the definition of “underserved” to also include urban and suburban populations. The group said many residents may live near a MRF but do not have collection or drop-off access, either due to facility capacity issues or because a household may be financially unable to pay for the services. The introduced version of the bill changed the “underserved” definition from describing areas that are “too geographically remote” to areas where “transportation, distance, or other reasons render utilization of available processing capacity at an existing materials recovery facility cost prohibitive.”
The bill was introduced March 3, 2022 and reported favorably by Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works April 7, 2022. It passed the Senate July 28, 2022. The companion bill was introduced in the House on June 23, 2022.
The bill aimed to expand food donation efforts and reduce the amount of waste food by updating limited liability protections in the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Bill sponsors said current provisions are too ambiguous or outdated and may sometimes prevent businesses or organizations from donating food.
The bill extended liability protections to food donors such as grocery stores, restaurants, caterers and education institutions when they give food directly to a person in need or when a recipient pays a reduced cost. A previous version of the bill would have asked the Secretary of Agriculture to issue regulations that clarify labeling standards that food must meet to be eligible for liability protections. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) sponsored the bill.
The bill was included in omnibus budget legislation and signed by President Biden Dec. 29, 2022.
This bill was previously included in the text of the larger Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House education and labor committee. The bill was meant to expand access to school meals and reauthorizes several federal child nutrition programs. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said the bill’s inclusion in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids act would “reduce the environmental scourge of food waste” and help support children with less access to fresh food.
During an event supporting the bill on July 12, 2022, Civil Eats reported, Rep. McGovern said he wants the bill “over the finish line before the end of the year” and noted it could be attached to another bill to help it pass more effectively. He said bipartisan support could help move the bill more quickly. “We have to focus on what we can get done in the next couple of months,” he said at the time.
Supporters such as the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Panera Bread, Grubhub, Hellmann’s, Blue Apron, the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others said in an open letter that clearer donation guidance and clarifying terms such as donations made “in good faith” would help encourage more donations.
Broadening protections to include more types of food donations, such as items sold at low cost and donations offered from food businesses directly to end recipients, would also help the EPA reach its goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030, supporters said in the letter.
This bill was introduced Nov. 30, 2021 in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; companion bill introduced Dec. 13, 2021 in the House and referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. It was included in omnibus budget legislation and signed by President Biden Dec. 29, 2022.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the infrastructure bill backed by President Joe Biden and negotiated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, included text from the RECYCLE Act, and grant funding from the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. Biden signed the bill Nov. 15, 2021. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) sponsored the bill.
The sweeping bipartisan bill was meant to fund roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure. SWANA, ISRI and NWRA, which supported the bill’s inclusion of the RECYCLE Act and other recycling efforts, applauded the fact that the Senate passed the bill with those provisions still intact. They saw the inclusion of the entire RECYCLE Act within the bill as a good sign that recycling is being taken more seriously as a jobs creator and considered essential infrastructure.
The version included in the infrastructure bill, the same as its standalone version, called for improving residential recycling programs through public education and outreach. It authorized up to $15 million per year in grants over five years, through 2026, to states, tribes, nonprofits and public-private partnerships. It calls on the EPA to develop a toolkit for reducing contamination and increasing recycling participation. The EPA needs to more frequently review and revise its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines that designate products containing recycled materials.
Other recycling-related provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included numerous sections related to battery recycling, including establishing a battery manufacturing and recycling grant program within the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It offered up to $3 billion total between fiscal years 2022 through 2026 for constructing, retrofitting or expanding advanced battery manufacturing or recycling facilities.
The bill also included funding for battery recycling research, development and demonstration grants, including a total of $60 million between 2022 and 2026 for researchers and higher education entities to create “innovative and practical approaches to increase the reuse and recycling of batteries.” It included an additional $50 million for state and local entities to establish battery recycling programs and $15 million for retailers that collect batteries for recycling. The bill also called for soliciting research projects to demonstrate how electric vehicle batteries can be reused for “second-life applications” such as electric grid energy storage or other uses, convening a task force to develop an extended producer responsibility framework for batteries, and continuing a $10 million lithium-ion battery recycling competition. Guidelines for voluntary battery labeling and best practices for battery recycling were also included.
After the House passed the bill Nov. 5, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, applauded the inclusion of $3.5 billion in assistance to Native American tribes to help fund solid waste systems and other types of facilities.
This bill was introduced July 9, 2021. The RECYCLE ACT text was added in late July, and it passed Senate Aug. 10, 2021. It passed the House Nov. 5, 2021.
The bill aimed to ban the use of intentionally-added PFAS in food packaging sold in the U.S. Once a standalone bill, it has now been incorporated as an amendment to the FDASLA. The amendment would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Environmental groups like Toxic-Free Future applauded the move, calling it an important step toward eliminating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the environment. Waste and recycling industry representatives have generally supported moves to eliminate PFAS in materials that are likely to end up in disposal and recycling facilities, as future regulations could dictate how they handle such chemicals.
The FDA has taken limited action on eliminating PFAS in packaging in the past, such as announcing a voluntary phase-out of some short-chain PFAS compounds in food packaging in 2020, but this bill could more directly ban more PFAS types in food packaging.
The move followed several state and local governments also working to phase PFAS out of consumer goods and food packaging. Washington is in the process of phasing the material out of packaging and other items as part of a multi-year plan, and Colorado’s governor signed a bill banning the sale of many products containing intentionally-added PFAS — including food packaging – starting in 2024. Food service establishments such as McDonalds and Starbucks have plans to voluntarily phase out PFAS-containing packaging.
The bill passed as an amendment to the FDA Safety and Landmark Advancements Act of 2022 in the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions on June 14, 2022.
The legislation would have allowed national parks to voluntarily ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles and other single-use plastic materials, such as bags and utensils, according to the office of Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who sponsored the bill with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Bill sponsors said the voluntary bans would help curb litter and reduce plastic use by thousands of pounds.
The bill came a few weeks after a group of Democratic senators asked the National Park Service to reinstate a former federal policy allowing individual parks to enact single-use plastic water bottle bans. The program, started in 2011, was rolled back by the Trump administration in 2017. Parks that once took part in the effort offered alternatives such as bottle-filling stations and refillable bottles for sale, Quigley said in a news release.
Quigley last introduced the bill in 2019 to target only plastic water bottles. Supporters such as the Surfrider Foundation, Oceana and U.S. PIRG said the 2021 version’s expanded focus on other single-use plastics showed that policy is shifting toward more comprehensive plastic pollution strategies and away from targeting individual types of plastic products.
Companion bills were introduced in the House and Senate Oct. 7, 2021 and sent to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
This bill later was included in the text of the larger Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House education and labor committee. That bill did not pass in 2022.
The bill was meant to expand access to school meals and reauthorizes several federal child nutrition programs. Rep. Pingree said the school food recovery bill’s inclusion in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would “reduce the environmental scourge of food waste” and help support children with less access to fresh food.
Eligible grant activities would have included food waste measurement, prevention, education and reduction projects, along with equipment or training. The bill did not specify an annual grant amount, but any future grants would cover up to 75% of school project costs, with communities or schools matching the rest of the cost, it said. The bill was previously introduced in 2020.
Supporters included the Natural Resources Defense Council, ReFED, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the World Wildlife Foundation. The groups advocated for the School Food Recovery Act in a recently released report, saying the program would raise awareness of food waste issues by “enlisting teachers and students to turn cafeterias into classrooms by measuring and reducing their waste.”
This bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 30, 2021 and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
The Democrats’ draft budget reconciliation bill, known as Build Back Better, includes several waste and recycling provisions. The reconciliation plan currently includes $1.75 trillion in total spending, with about $550 billion in climate measures. The full BBB bill may not move forward after Sen. Joe Manchin said in December he would not support the bill, but the Biden administration still aims to pass parts of BBB separately.
The bill would allocate $95 million in EPA grants available through Sept. 30, 2031 for organics recycling projects in “low-income or disadvantaged communities,” including programs to “construct, expand, or modernize” facilities or equipment that collects and processes organic materials. Grants could also be used for programs to measure, reduce and prevent food waste.
The bill also calls for another $95 million in EPA grants, also available through Sept. 30, 2031, for other projects in low-income or disadvantaged communities that reduce waste in manufacturing or encourage manufacturers to design packaging that reduces waste. Projects that create market demand or manufacturing capacity for recycled materials and commodities, including compost, would also be a priority. Other eligible items include those that reduce or prevent waste from entering landfills through projects such as source-separated organic waste collection, organic waste diversion programs, or efforts that increase landfill disposal fees.
A Nov. 3 update to the bill added $10 million to support recycling data collection efforts, with a focus on projects in rural areas that lack access to recycling services or other disadvantaged or low-income communities. The money would be available through Sept. 30, 2031.
An older version of the bill originally allocated $750 million total in grant funding for such projects, with $300 million going to disadvantaged communities.
NWRA opposes the draft bill, saying it “does not solve the problems of the worker shortage crisis, supply chain disruption and the highest inflation in a generation.” Darrell Smith, NWRA’s president and CEO, said in a news release the bill includes “proposed tax increases and anti-energy provisions” that would slow economic recovery and make it hard for American businesses to compete internationally. NWRA has not yet clarified what provisions they consider “anti-energy.”
SWANA applauded the funding, saying it reflects the Biden administration’s environmental justice and climate change priorities. CEO David Biderman said reconciliation funding would do more to waste and recycling issues than the amount allocated in the draft infrastructure bill. The infrastructure bill currently calls for $75 million over five years to improve residential recycling programs through public education and outreach. Biderman called that “insufficient,” but supporters see it as a good sign the administration is taking recycling seriously.
The Build Back Better bill also mentions new and extended tax credits for some biogas projects, which could include organics recycling technology. The American Biogas Council says the inclusion shows Congress sees biogas systems as part of the effort to combat climate change.
Not included in this draft of the reconciliation bill is a 20‐cent‐per‐pound tax on virgin plastic, a provision that would have looked similar to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s proposed REDUCE Act.
Recently, NWRA joined nearly 90 other trade and industry associations that spoke against the bill in a Jan. 12 letter, citing concerns that businesses would have to shoulder the cost of many of the bill’s provisions and worsen other operational issues such as “rising prices, labor shortages, and ongoing supply chain constraints.” Glass Packaging Institute, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, International Association of Plastics Distribution, Plastics Industry Association and others called on Congress to end “efforts to sharply increase federal spending while raising taxes on America’s employers.”
This bill was introduced Sept. 27, 2021. It passed the House Nov. 19, 2021.
The bill would have set a fee of 10 cents per pound for the sale of most virgin plastics starting in 2022 and increase it to 20 cents per pound in 2024. The fee would have applied to virgin plastics used for single-use products such as packaging, bags, food service ware and beverage containers, according to a news release from the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a sponsor of the bill.Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) sponsored the bill in the House.
The bill aimed to help incentivize recycling, hold plastic producers accountable for waste, and help recycled plastic markets compete with markets for virgin plastics, he said in the release.
Post-consumer resin and virgin resins that are exported would have been exempt from the fee. The bill offered rebates for virgin plastic used to make products that are not single-use; plastic used to make medical products, or packaging for medicines and personal hygiene products; and plastics used to ship hazardous materials, according to the release.
The bill would have established a plastic waste reduction fund that would use fee revenue for reduction and recycling initiatives. Recycling infrastructure improvements, marine debris reduction efforts, environmental justice and plastic pollution prevention efforts, or activities that detect, monitor or clean up plastic waste would qualify, the release said.
Plastic industry groups such as the Plastics Industry Association and the American Chemistry Council strongly opposed the bill, telling Congress in a letter that the bill would kill thousands of jobs and increase resin costs by up to 26%, creating an unfair burden on manufacturers. Supporters such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund told Congress in a separate letter that REDUCE would help the country lessen its reliance on virgin plastic and level the playing field to make recycled resin markets competitive with virgin.
This bill was introduced Aug. 5, 2021 and sent to Senate Committee on Finance. A House version was introduced Sept. 28, 2021.
The COMPOST Act would provide $200 million a year through 2031 in grants and loan guarantees for composting infrastructure projects, including large-scale composting facilities as well as smaller projects on a farm, community or household level. Eligible projects could include market development programs, compost collection initiatives, or expansions of existing programs. It would have also designate composting as an approved practice for U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs.
The bill gave priority to grant proposals that are led by people of color or proposals that are inclusive and provide living wages, serve disadvantaged and low-income communities, or incorporate environmental justice principles.
Supporters included the US Composting Council and the U.S. Composting Infrastructure Coalition, which includes groups such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Biodegradable Products Institute, NWRA, Californians Against Waste and the Foodservice Packaging Institute. The groups said the bill will help divert organics from landfills, thus reducing methane emissions, and help improve access to composting programs at the community level.
A group of more than 60 stakeholders from NGOs, composting groups, compostable packaging manufacturers and brands have also urged Congress to pass the act. In letters to the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees on Oct. 27, 2021, the group said this law would correct gaps in the country’s composting infrastructure.
This bill was introduced July 16, 2021 and referred to the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Aug. 11, 2021.
The Zero Food Waste Act would have awarded a total of $650 million per year in EPA grants through fiscal year 2031 for programs and infrastructure projects meant to reduce or prevent food waste. The grants could be used for a range of programs such as measuring food waste generation, rescuing or reallocating surplus food, restricting the disposal of food waste, building infrastructure such as anaerobic digestion projects, or creating new markets and demand for compost products. The bill stated a goal of cutting food waste in the U.S. in half from 2010 levels by 2030.
The grants would have been available to state, local, territorial or Tribal governments, as well as nonprofits. The bill gives priority to grant proposals for projects in communities of color, low-income communities, or Tribal communities affected by “adverse human health or environmental effects.”
Supporters included the Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, Californians Against Waste, the Consumer Brands Association and others that said the bill is key to reducing the climate impacts of food waste.
The bill was introduced July 16, 2021 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The updated bill, first introduced in 2020, aimed to put a 5-cent per pound excise tax on virgin plastic used to make single-use products. Some exceptions would have included plastic used for medical products, personal hygiene items, and packaging for shipping hazardous materials. It would place the money in a Virgin Plastic Trust Fund, some of which would be spent on administering the tax program, while about half would go to the U.S. general fund, said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the bill’s sponsor, in a news release. It also asked the Biden administration to negotiate international trade agreements or treaties to reduce virgin plastic production to 10% of 2010 levels by 2050.
The bill, which also called for banning certain new offshore oil and gas leasing, monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from ocean vessels and establishing grants for climate research, had more than two dozen cosponsors. Environmental and marine conservation groups such as Oceana and Conservation International supported the bill’s aims, while plastics industry groups such as PLASTICS said the bill unfairly targets the industry, which it says is also working to reduce ocean plastic pollution.
This bill was introduced June 8, 2021 and referred to multiple committees, then approved by House Committee on Natural Resources on July 14, 2021.
This legislation would have updated tax credit qualifications for producing electricity from renewable resources by revising the definition of “municipal solid waste.” The bill clarified that the tax credit only applies to the portion of electricity a waste-to-energy facility generates from solid waste. It did not apply to recycled paper that has been separated from solid waste, nor paper that is “collected as part of a system which does not provide for the separate collection of paper which is commonly recycled from residential solid waste.” The PAPER Act made exceptions for MSW that has “incidental” or residual amounts of paper in it.
Section 45 of the tax code already states that “commonly recycled” paper is not solid waste and not eligible for the tax credit, but bill supporters such as the Paper Recycling Coalition say a loophole has allowed waste-to-energy facilities to use recycled paper that has been mixed back in with municipal solid waste. The process contaminates paper, “leaving it unusable as a feedstock for recycled packaging and products,” the group stated in a support letter.
Industry groups such as ISRI and the National Recycling Coalition also renewed their support for the bill, which used the same bill language as the version introduced in 2019. Similar versions have been introduced since 2015, but have not gained much traction.
This bill was reintroduced April 27, 2021 and referred to Senate Committee on Finance.
The legislation, reintroduced April 22, 2021, aimed to bolster the U.S. plastics recycling industry’s competitiveness in the global market while addressing plastic pollution issues, authorizing $85 million in funding for 2022 for these programs, then increasing funding each subsequent year by 6.5% through 2026. It would have directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a plastic waste reduction program and work with multiple federal agencies and public-private partnerships to research recycling technologies and plastic waste reduction strategies, including efforts to reduce microplastic pollution. An interagency committee would have coordinated the program and helped define key terms like “recycle” and “recyclability.” Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okl.)
The bill directed agencies to research “chemical and bio-inspired recycling” and other techniques for “upcycling recycled plastics into new high value products.” It also called for further research into biodegradable and compostable plastics, and agencies would also research and identify barriers to expanding plastic recycling and the environmental impacts of plastic waste. A clearinghouse would have offered information and guidelines about the program and standards for plastics recycling technology.
Several groups that backed the original legislation did not comment on the latest version when the 2021 version was released, but plastics groups like American Chemical Council, American Chemistry Society, American Beverage Association and the Plastics Industry Association supported the bill in 2020. At the time of release, SWANA had not yet reviewed the new version but said it supports providing additional resources to federal agencies and others to perform research related to plastic recycling.
The bill was reintroduced April 22, 2021 and referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
The bill aimed to boost infrastructure projects through up to $500 million in matching federal grants for improvements to MRFs, curbside collection systems and education programs. The bill would have prevented the use of funds for “incineration projects,” and the EPA would have to submit a report within two years of enactment to detail the grant funding program’s progress. Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) introduced the bill.
Industry groups had mixed reactions to the bill. SWANA praised the bill for funneling financial resources to local governments that need recycling infrastructure improvements. The glass, plastics, and chemical industries also signaled support when the bill was first introduced in 2019. The bill was reintroduced April 5, 2021 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
NWRA, which supported the bill when it was first introduced in 2019, saidthe 2021 version of the bill places the private sector “at a competitive disadvantage.” It urged Reps. Cárdenas and Bucshon to add tax incentives and other private sector “regulatory relief” to the bill language. ISRI said the bill does not go far enough on eliminating contamination from the recycling stream or addressing public recycling education.
The bipartisan bill focused primarily on improving the effectiveness of residential recycling programs through public education and outreach. It authorized up to $15 million per year in grants over five years, through 2026, to states, tribes, nonprofits and public/private partnerships. The bill tasked the U.S. EPA with developing a toolkit to boost recycling participation and reduce contamination. It requires the EPA to more frequently review and revise its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, which designate products containing recycled materials and give recommendations for federal agencies purchasing these products.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, NWRA and SWANA endorsed the bill, saying it could help increase recycling participation and make recycling streams cleaner. The Recycling Partnership also backed the legislation, as have environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Wildlife Conservation Society. Aluminum, plastics, fiber and glass trade groups similarly expressed support for the bill.
The bill would have authorized $150 million in grant funding each year from 2022 to 2031 for zero-waste projects such as organics recycling infrastructure, e-scrap recycling, source reduction programs, and other efforts meant to reduce waste and aid market development.
It would have also provided a total of $250 million in grants over that 10-year period for disposal diversion projects. At least 75% of the grant funding awarded must go to projects that serve, or are located in, “environmental justice communities,” according to the bill. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) sponsored the bill.
The 2021 version of the bill expanded eligible uses for the grant funding to include zero-emissions vehicles for recycling and organics hauling and state programs that incentivize waste diversion from landfills, such as by restricting compostable materials from being landfilled. The updates made “this program more broadly accessible while keeping the primary focus on EJ communities,” according to Omar’s staff.
The bill was first introduced in July 2019 as a “key part of the Green New Deal” and an effort to address pollution, particularly around incinerators, while also curbing food waste, Omar said at the time. A segment of the bill, focused on the waste reduction grant program, was included as an amendment to the 2020 Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. That bill passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate.
Environmental groups have embraced the legislation in the past. SWANA said it is “tracking” the bill’s progress, but believed other recycling-related bills would have a stronger chance of passing.
The bill was reintroduced March 19, 2021 and referred to the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.
The bill aimed to ramp up competitiveness with China by calling for $52 billion for semiconductor fabrication and related research and development, as well as remedying other supply chain issues by focusing on domestic manufacturing. The House passed the bill Feb. 4, 2022, and was expected to work on reconciling differences between this bill and the Senate’s version, called the U.S. Innovations and Competition Act, which passed in 2021.
The most recent full version of the House’s COMPETES bill included some of the language of the Secure E-Waste Export and Recycling Act (SEERA), which aimed to restrict the export of “untested, non-working electronic scrap” from the United States. Its goal is to keep such material from being illegally dumped in other countries, which it says can cause pollution or end up in counterfeit electronics. The SEERA segment is just one part of the nearly 3,000-page bill. While a final version hasn’t been published since the Feb. 4 vote, multiple sources believe that language remained. A request for comment is pending with the office of SEERA sponsor Rep. Adriano Espaillat. The Senate bill does not include this provision.
This section of the bill restricted the “export or reexport of electronic waste” unless it meets certain criteria as a reusable product or “recyclable feedstock” and is exported in a way that prevents it from becoming part of a counterfeit item. According to the bill, the U.S. has a “strong economic and national security incentive to enhance domestic e-waste recycling capacity rather than exporting to China and other countries.” It adds that China is the largest producer of e-waste in the world and could make up to $23.8 billion by 2030 because it has a “high supply of used products, demand for recycled materials, and capacity to transport these materials.” The U.S. is the second-biggest e-waste producer, according to the bill.
The Biden administration said in a statement that the bill “will make our supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world.” Semiconductors and other components used for items like cars and computers are exacerbating supply chain bottlenecks, it said, which has “led to higher prices for the middle class.”
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries took issue with the inclusion of the SEERA bill language in COMPETES, saying it won’t do much to counteract counterfeiting issues and will unfairly impact American e-scrap recyclers. But organizations like the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, which supported SEERA, say e-scrap exports “contribute to microchip counterfeiting, mostly in China, that can result in unreliable components used in sensitive applications” such as military or healthcare technology.
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Thom Tillis (R- N.C.) reintroduced an identical Senate version of the SEERA bill on March 17, 2022.
This bill was introduced March 8, 2021. It passed the Senate March 28, 2022 and passed the House Feb. 4, 2022.
The bill, first introduced in 2020, notably calls for EPR programs for packaging and a nationwide 10-cent beverage container deposit program. It aims to ban single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene foodservice containers, and discourage single-use plastic utensils and straws. Mandatory post-consumer recycled content minimums would also gradually increase from 25% by 2025 to 80% in 2040. The bill also calls for more efforts to promote reusable and refillable containers, and to reduce microplastic pollution through pilot programs and other research.
In addition, it calls for a three-year pause on issuing permits for new plastics production facilities and chemical recycling plants. This provision has drawn criticism from plastics industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council. When facilities are able to secure permits, the bill would require expanded environmental justice requirements, such as informing fenceline communities in advance and providing information about the project in languages the surrounding community speaks.
The waste and recycling industry has not yet commented on the bill, but NWRA came out against the initial version of the legislation, calling components of it “counterproductive.”
Bill sponsors say it includes many measures already reflected in state laws, including EPR programs. A growing number of state legislatures introduced their own EPR bills in 2021. Even if it does not move forward, supporters say the return of this bill shows how EPR and other recycling-related improvements have become more of a priority at the federal level.
The wide-ranging bill aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. By 2030, it aims to bring greenhouse gas emissions down 50% from 2005 levels. The bill, a draft version of which was released in 2020, calls for numerous waste and recycling efforts to achieve that goal, along with other energy, economic, infrastructure and job-related initiatives.
The bill would establish post-consumer recycled content standards for certain products, implement a national bottle deposit program and direct the EPA to standardize the labeling and collection of recyclables. It would also create a task force meant to establish an extended producer responsibility system for certain products. The plan directs the EPA to develop grants for zero-waste initiatives, recycling and waste reduction education, and composting or anaerobic digestion projects.
It would also direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on single-use products and product bans to determine any environmental, economic, or other effects of such bans.
The bill also seeks to place a “temporary pause” on permitting for new and expanded plastic production facilities in order for the EPA to update clean air regulations related to the facilities. Permits for any new or expanded plastic production facilities would have to address environmental justice impacts through assessments and meetings with affected communities.
Dec. 18, 2020
Save Our Seas 2.0
Save Our Seas 2.0, a combination of three different bills, built upon the legacy of the Save Our Seas Act of 2018. The legislation focused on the hot-button issues of marine debris and plastics pollution, which brought the plastics industry under scrutiny by environmental groups and the public. President Trump signed the bill on Dec. 18, 2020.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, with a unanimous vote in the Senate, and boasts an array of endorsements from industry heavyweights. But anti-plastics advocates argued the legislation focuses too much on tackling a problem at the end of its cycle, rather than at the beginning. That pushback notably led to the removal of language around chemical recycling, which is controversial with environmental and health organizations. On Oct. 1, 2020, the bill passed the House and headed back to the Senate with amendments. The Senate agreed to those amendments by unanimous consent on Dec. 1, marking final passage. President Trump signed the bill on Dec. 18, 2020.
Introduced in July 2019 (as a successor to a similar bill by former Rep. Keith Ellison) this legislation focused on organics recycling infrastructure, e-scrap recycling and other efforts toward both source reduction and market development. Omar dubbed the legislation a “key part of the Green New Deal” and pointed to the bill as a critical component in the effort to address pollution, food waste and environmental justice issues. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) sponsored the bill.
The bill would have funneled up to $250 million worth of U.S. EPA grants into “zero waste” initiatives. Environmental groups embraced the legislation, while the recycling industry was largely quiet and doesn’t view it as having much traction. In introducing the legislation, Omar notably targeted incinerators, noting that 80% of those sites are located in areas that are low-income or serve communities of color.
The bill was referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce July 25, 2019. It was endorsed in report by House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on 6/30/20.
The bill directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to establish a plastic waste reduction program. It also directed OSTP to work with federal agencies to establish standards for regulating recycling technologies and developing plans around combatting plastic waste. One focus of the bill was “advanced plastics technologies optimized for recyclability” and facilitating public-private partnerships. Another point of emphasis was bolstering plastic sorting infrastructure, including for biobased plastics, along with researching and developing chemical and “bio-inspired” recycling and their environmental implications.
Plastics groups endorsed the legislation, including the American Chemical Council, American Chemistry Society, American Beverage Association and the Plastics Industry Association. Waste industry organizations did not widely comment on the bill.
It was referred on June 15, 2020 to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Few pieces of federal recycling legislation enjoyed as much popular support as the RECYCLE Act when it was introduced in November 2019. The legislation would have, over the course of five years, authorized up to $15 million per year in grants to states, tribes, nonprofits and other entities seeking to ramp up recycling activity and education. The bill would have also tasked the U.S. EPA with developing a toolkit to boost recycling participation and reduce contamination, updating guidelines for products made with recycled material and encouraging more federal procurement of such products. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) sponsored the bill.
Major industry players like the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and The Recycling Partnership backed the 2019 legislation. Environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Wildlife Conservation Society also signed on. Aluminum, plastics, fiber and glass trade groups similarly expressed support for the bill, which also had bipartisan backing in Congress.
Both ISRI and the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association said they were open to RECYCLE’s potential inclusion in a future coronavirus relief package, backing that over the inclusion of the RECOVER Act.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works November 21, 2019, then referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce 2/13/20. It was floated as possible contender for coronavirus relief legislation package.
The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was among the most sweeping bills proposed in 2020. Under the legislation, Congress would have moved to establish a nationwide container deposit system and enshrine extended producer responsibility for packaging. Municipalities would transition control over the waste stream to producers, who would be encouraged to join Producer Responsibility Organizations, similar to the Canadian province of British Columbia. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) sponsored the bill.
A number of controversial items – including single-use plastic bags, expanded polystyrene foodservice containers, utensils and straws – would have also been banned. Mandatory post-consumer recycled content minimums would have also gradually increased from 25% by 2025 to 80% in 2040.
The waste and recycling industry showed a notable lack of enthusiasm for the bill. NWRA came out against the legislation in November 2019 after the draft circulated, calling components of it “counterproductive.” In May 2019, a coalition including nonprofit recyclers called for Congress to pass the bill in response to coronavirus impacts on the recycling industry. In August, the bill’s sponsors circulated blueprints for states seeking to develop their own “plastic pollution” legislation.
The bill was referred to Senate Committee on Finance on 2/11/20, referred to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on 2/12/20. It was endorsed in a report by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis 6/30/20.
RECOVER had support from the glass, plastics, and chemical industries, along with SWANA and NWRA, while ISRI expressed qualms with the legislation and fiber groups have been absent. An emphasis on public-private partnerships would have been key for groups like Closed Loop Partners and The Recycling Partnership, although environmental groups like Beyond Plastics remained skeptical.
While the coronavirus pandemic largely halted momentum in Congress for many recycling bills, plastics groups were lobbying for RECOVER’s inclusion in any infrastructure relief package. The groups also argued the amount in the RECOVER text should be raised and sought a program of $1 billion.
The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change Nov. 18, 2019. It was floated as part of coronavirus congressional relief package with increased funding.