WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to improve and expand recycling service and increase composting programs, the U.S. Senate passed two bipartisan bills that seek to boost recycling and composting infrastructure in communities across the country.

By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate approved the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (S. 1189) and the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (S. 1194) this week.  These bills will help build recycling and composting infrastructure projects, improve rural recycling, boost data collection, and explore opportunities for implementing a national composting strategy.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says it is imperative for Congress to take action to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills, expand local capacity to improve the collection of recyclables, and help make recycling and composting programs more effective and efficient.

“We can’t just toss cardboard, paper, plastic, and bottles into the bin and call it a day.  We’ve got to invest in making recycling work better for people and communities.  This is a smart step toward upgrading our recycling infrastructure and ensuring it is economically and environmentally sustainable and expanding opportunities for composting,” said Senator Reed.  “These bipartisan bills will also help collect needed data to ensure recycling programs are working and develop a national composting strategy.  And we’ve also got to do our part to reduce the amount of plastics we use in the first place, incentivize producers and manufacturers to be environmentally-responsible, and hold them accountable for their packaging.”

According to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 681,000 jobs in the United States are associated with recycling and reuse activities.

The two bipartisan bills, which were led by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would help the U.S. toward its goal of increasing the national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030, up from the current 32.1% recycling rate.  To achieve that goal, the federal government must help states, municipalities, businesses, communities, and individuals work together to improve the nation’s recycling system and conserve our natural resources.

The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would allow the EPA to create a pilot program to improve recycling services in underserved areas, including rural communities.  Federal grants would be awarded to eligible communities with the aim of developing local recycling infrastructure and enhancing access. 

When organic waste rots it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that traps about 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.  About a quarter of municipal solid waste is food waste and an estimated 58 percent of methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills come from food waste, according to the EPA.  Composting is a potent tool for waste management that could help reduce methane and combat climate change.

The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act would direct EPA to collect data, prepare reports, and develop best practices for recycling and composting programs in the United States. Under the bill, EPA would be required to assess composting infrastructure in communities to identify barriers to implementing a national composting strategy and evaluate and report on the rates of recycling and composting at federal agencies every two years.

Now that the two bipartisan bills have passed the Senate by unanimous consent, they must also be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Companion legislation for the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act has been introduced in the House by Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-IA-1) and companion legislation for the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act has been introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2).