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Legislators introduce Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act

U.S. Representatives Haley Stevens of Michigan and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio have introduced the Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act as bipartisan legislation to reduce plastic waste and improve the global competitiveness of the US plastics recycling industry.

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June 18 2020
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The Plastics Waste Reduction and Recycling Act introduced on June 16, directs the establishment of a plastic waste reduction and recycling research and development programme, calls on the Federal government to develop a strategic plan for plastic waste reduction, and calls for the development of standards for plastics recycling technologies.

“We can no longer deny that we face a plastic waste crisis,” said Haley Stevens. “In 2018, the U.S. woke up to the fragile predicament of our plastic waste management system. No longer able to ship our plastic waste to international markets, U.S. cities were forced to cut longstanding recycling programs. Instead, they had to resort to incinerating recyclables or tossing them in landfills.

“There are plenty of reasons for why and how we got here; however, a major factor is because we failed as a nation to invest in domestic recycling infrastructure and policies to account for the growing demand for plastic. As a result, today, the U.S. recycles just 9% of its plastic waste. The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act will help develop a world-leading U.S. industry in advanced plastics recycling technologies, and unleash the innovative potential of our nation to address our plastic waste crisis and generate greater value from the plastics we do produce.”

The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act would:

 •Direct the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a “Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Program.” The purpose of the program is to improve the global competitiveness of the United States plastics recycling industry, ensure U.S. leadership in plastics waste reduction and recycling research, ensure U.S. leadership in national and international standards development, and reduce any harmful effects of plastic waste on the environment.

 •Direct the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an interagency committee to coordinate the program and develop a strategic plan for plastic waste reduction and recycling and plastic waste remediation.

 •Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technologies to carry out research and provide the metrology basis for standards development for plastics recycling and related technologies, and to develop a clearinghouse to support dissemination of the tools, guidelines, and standards supported by the program.

 •Direct the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support research and other activities on advanced recycling technologies, plastic waste remediation, and the public health impacts of microplastics, among other topics.

 •Authorise funding for 5 years and invests $85 million in fiscal year 2021 for these activities. Authorizes a 6.5% increase over the previous year’s authorisation for each of fiscal years 2022, 2023, 2024, and 2025.

The Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act is endorsed by the American Chemistry Council, American Chemistry Society, American Beverage Association, and Plastics Industry Association.

The American Chemistry Council voiced its support in a press release. “The American Chemistry Council strongly supports the Plastics Waste Reduction and Recycling Act, which would marshal federal government resources to improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. plastics recycling industry. If passed, this important legislation would help capture the potential value of used plastics through enhanced research and development, as well as the creation of standards, tools and technologies needed to modernize and expand today’s recycling systems,” said Keith Christman, ACC’s managing director of plastic markets.  

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) issued the following statement in support of the introduction of the legislation: “ISRI supports initiatives that spur research and enhance opportunities for recycling of all commodities, including plastics. We welcome the Plastic Waste and Reduction Act and commend Representative Stevens and Representative Gonzalez for their vision to make the United States a leader in market-based approaches to the circular economy of plastics. ISRI looks forward to working with these and other members of Congress to promote recycling and help Americans rediscover its many benefits.”