09-22-2021 EPW

Click here or the image above to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on recycling and the concept of a circular economy. Prior to the hearing, the committee held a business meeting to consider nominations, legislation to rename federal buildings, and several General Services Administration (GSA) resolutions. Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks for the business meeting.

Below is the committee hearing opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today’s hearing.

“In addition to our leadership roles on this committee, both Chairman Carper and I are members of the Senate Recycling Caucus, as are a few of our other EPW colleagues.

“We see recycling as a win-win solution that presents significant environmental and economic benefits.

“Recycling can reduce waste going to landfills and incinerators, conserve natural resources like timber and water, and save energy.

“In fact, many recent developments in waste management are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to an all-of-the-above strategy to address climate change.

“Hand-in-hand with those environmental benefits, recycling creates domestic jobs and supports American manufacturing.

“We’ve seen significant bipartisan progress on this issue in recent years when we passed the Save Our Seas Act and Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which help improve our ability to clean up waste and combat marine debris.

“But, marine debris is only one piece of the puzzle.

“There is also significant funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that the Senate passed last month—and we hope the House passes as well—for recycling infrastructure and education to reduce contamination in the recycling stream.

“While these investments could help us reach EPA’s ambitious National Recycling Goal of recycling 50% of waste by 2030, other challenges do remain.

“I want to highlight two of those challenges today: (1) the need to expand material processing and manufacturing here in our own country and (2) a lack of demand for recycled materials.

“The issues with China taking—or more recently, not taking—our recycling materials and the issues with supply lines laid bare by the pandemic made clear we need to do more of this material processing and manufacturing here in America.

“The investments in our nation’s roads and bridges that are in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would help expand American manufacturing.

“Reliable infrastructure is critical for economic development and creating job opportunities.

“When China stopped importing our trash, the economics of municipal recycling changed drastically.

“Cities must incur significant costs to collect recyclables and in some instances, the cost of paying businesses to accept those recyclables if they can no longer be profitably sold.

“Some municipal systems have taken on the costs and burdens of storing bales of recyclables waiting for an improvement in the market.

“This is all due to a lack of domestic demand for our recycled materials.

“Market demand for these materials can create the incentives to invest in the recycling system and expand access to recycling across the country, especially in rural areas like my state of West Virginia.

“While some of my colleagues in Congress have proposed various policies, regulations and mandates do not create effective, long-term markets.

“Falsely inflating the market for recycled goods with federal dollars does not help either. It simply prolongs the unviability of the sector, which could end up right back where we are today when the funding is gone.

“The best way to address the depressed demand for recycled materials is to develop new innovative markets and technologies.

“Today, we will learn about one example from Mr. Hawkinson, which is Georgia-Pacific’s new Juno Technology that is rescuing recyclable materials from the trash.

“Last week, Chairman Carper and I co-hosted a roundtable on ‘Leadership in Recycling: Sustainable Practices and Innovative Technologies’ where we had the opportunity to learn about some of the technological advancements in the recycling sector.

“For example, one company has successfully recycled over 2 million pounds of post-use polystyrene at their facility in Oregon through chemical recycling.

“Developing and deploying this technology could not have come at a better time as this material was used in COVID-19 vaccine production for everything from testing kits to the cooler shipment boxes that keep the vaccine at the needed temperatures during delivery and storage.

“Now what would otherwise be considered trash can be safely recycled into new products like medical grade and food grade plastic, while reducing waste that ends up in our landfills.

“The supply chain challenges that emerged—and are still with us—were among the most significant realizations we experienced during COVID-19, especially our reliance on other countries to produce essential products.

“I hope those realities won’t be quickly forgotten and that we can use those experiences as motivation to retain and bring back manufacturing jobs to America.

“One way we can accomplish this is fostering innovation, not stifling it.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on the best way to accomplish that.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.” 

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