The Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017

By Bob Gedert, SWEEP Steering Committee Member and President of the National Recycling Coalition

Recycling jobsA key driver in the redevelopment of domestic recycling infrastructure is the opportunity to attract new green businesses in America and create new green jobs, spurring manufacturing economic development. This country has the ability to develop new businesses, including reuse and recycling nonprofit organizations and private sector entrepreneurs, re-processors, secondary manufacturers and other businesses that have the ability to use recovered materials in their manufacturing processes. Economic development activities supporting local recycling and composting collection programs will result in additional financial benefits to the local community including additional sales tax revenues, and auxiliary economic trade.

US Congressional Representative Keith Ellison (MN) introduced the ‘‘Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017’” in mid-February. This new bill, HR 1034, if adopted will “authorize the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to award grants for municipal solid waste prevention, reuse, and recycling program development, and for other purposes.” This bill offers a new federal grant program, funded initially with $100 million over the first five years, to support the redevelopment of the American recycling infrastructure.

The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) supports and endorses the ‘‘Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017’’. The NRC believes that in conjunction with source reduction, reuse, and composting; the recycling of valuable materials is essential to a sustainable environmental, energy, and economic future.

The “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017” will help communicate the following American environmental values:

  • Recycling is a value-added activity to our communities, states, and country that creates green, well-paying jobs boosting a domestic economy committed to sustainability.
  • Materials recovery through direct primary recycling and reuse efforts is the preferred management option for all residential, commercial, and industrial discards.
  • Recycling is resource management, not waste management.
  • Recycling is not disposal.
  • Recycling programs must be designed to minimize contamination in consideration of the needs of upstream users.
  • Recyclables are substitutes for virgin materials.

The ambitions and programs proposed in the “Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017”, if fully implemented, creates domestic jobs through the rebuilding of the American recycling infrastructure. The bill also is designed to increase public education of effective ways to reduce household waste, encourage creative reuse, increase recycling efforts, and support composting of household organics.

It is critical at this juncture of the American economy that we create a strategic shift away from the costly strategy of waste management toward a holistic resource management system that strives to use less material overall, reduce toxins, recover more used materials, create new jobs, and foster economic development.

We believe that recycling is a shared responsibility which requires citizen engagement. The grants program established in this legislation will provide critical investment in infrastructure and technologies. This will help achieve the goal of a more sustainable America for our future. Providing green jobs and local economic development is a key opportunity identified in HR 1034.

Contact your Congressional Representative and ask him/her to support the ‘‘Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act of 2017’” (HR 1034) as we work to achieve that vision of a sustainable zero waste future.

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