ISRI submitted comments before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as part of the Committee’s hearing entitled “Responding to Challenges in the U.S. Recycling System.” In its comments, ISRI states that given the complexity of the recycling system within the United States, there simply is no one single answer to the challenges facing recycling in the United States. ISRI goes on to provide a number of solutions that, taken together, can make a significant difference.

Excerpts of ISRI’s comments follow:

“… Recycling is essential, representing $110 billion in economic activity and touching virtually every segment of our economy.  …

… The disruptions to recycling over the last several years have resulted from a number of fronts, including:

  • Changes in global market demand triggered by China’s imposition of import restrictions imposed originally on lower grades of recyclables generated primarily from residential recycling operations;
  • Manufacturers in the United States and worldwide demanding higher quality specification-grade materials from recycling;
  • An increasing variety of products and packaging entering the recycling stream that are not recyclable;
  • Mixed messaging regarding the viability and importance of recycling, undermining confidence in recycling; and
  • Most recently, COVID-19 has added additional strains on manufacturing industries that both generate and purchase recyclable materials. 

What all of these disruptors have in common is they undermine the two major elements needed for successful recycling: a consistent supply of quality material into the recycling stream and end-market demand …

… While there is no singular solution to the challenges we are facing in recycling, there are a number of solutions that, working together, can result in significant improvements to strengthen recycling. …

1. Design for Recycling®: Implemented through U.S. procurement guidelines and other purchasing and procurement requirements, ISRI supports policy tools that incentivize or require manufacturers to design their products for recycling in conjunction with including more recycled content. …

2. Provide funding for Education and Consumer Awareness around Recycling:  ISRI supports addressing the education vacuum as a multi-prong and multi-stakeholder responsibility, such as through the numerous public-private partnerships that already are successfully raising the bar for consumer awareness.  …

3. Encouraging Innovation and Investments in Recycling Activities:  ISRI supports policies that will support broader collection and additional processing of recyclable materials through grants, loans and tax incentives for new equipment and innovation; business financial assistance programs and recycling-specific technical and financial assistance.  However, such support is conditional upon a level playing field for public and private recyclers who have invested significant private capital and entrepreneurship.

4. Strengthening Domestic Recycling and Market Development through Government Procurement Policies and Investment in Projects that Mandate Recycled Content:  ISRI fully supports initiatives and incentives that are designed to strengthen domestic residential recycling and markets utilizing the strength of the U.S. Government’s purchasing power. …

5. Temporary Mechanisms for the Separate Collection and Processing of Difficult to Recycle Items.

6. Support for Public-Private Partnerships That Promote Innovation in Recycling. The Committee’s support of continued federal funding for U.S. government‐led public‐private partnerships focused on research and development of innovative technologies and implementation of Design for Recycling® principles would go a long way to help address the challenges facing recycling. …

… We sincerely hope that as America’s Original Recyclers®, our observations and suggestions will help this Committee better understand that recycling is essential to manufacturing.  This includes the fact that we have a collective responsibility during the various stages in the recycling system, that developing end-use markets is imperative, and that product design is vital for recycling to succeed and deliver the vast environmental and economic benefits we all desire and expect. 

 It is imperative that as policymakers, industry and environmental representatives, and citizens, we work to rediscover the important aspects of recycling that help us protect the environment, conserve natural resources for future generations, save energy and put Americans to work in good-paying jobs. …”

For more information, visit www.isri.org.

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