Statement of Chairman James M. Jeffords
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Federal Procurement and Beverage Container Recycling
Thursday, July 11, 2002
The issue of recycling could not be more timely. In the last year, our security and resource concerns have been highlighted more than ever. Lest we not forget that President Roosevelt's recycling campaign helped us win World War II.
While today's war is very different, the energy consequences are even more dramatic.
I was alarmed by several statistics in the Container Recycling Institute's new study on Aluminum. Let me share one of them with you. In 2001, 100 billion aluminum cans were sold. More than half, over 50 billion, were wasted, which means landfilled, littered or incinerated. If these 50 billion cans had been recycled, they would have saved the energy equivalent of 16 million barrels of crude oil. That is enough energy to generate electricity for almost 3 million U.S. homes for a year.
And the trend is worsening: the 2001 aluminum recycling rate was the lowest in 15 years. These statistics are astounding. The waste is disturbing. Our disposal practices have got to change.
The federal government must become a better role model. Or industry must begin taking steps voluntarily. Or Congress must pass recycling legislation. Or all of the above.
In our search for the right answer or balance of right answers, we will focus on two areas of recycling today.
First, we will look at whether the Federal government, which spent more than $230 billion in 2001 on goods and products, is maximizing its purchases of recycled content products.
In June 2001, the General Accounting Office released a study that concerned me. One of their conclusions was that many procuring officials and other Federal purchasers either do not know about or chose not to implement the requirements for establishing recycled-content procurement programs.
If the Federal government is not recycling, how can we expect the rest of the country to do so? If the Federal government is not creating market demand, how can we expect our businesses to continue their innovation?
The second issue I would like to talk about today is beverage container recycling.
For the last several Congresses, I have introduced a national bottle deposit bill. Vermont has been a leader in the area of beverage container recycling.
The first bottle bill was passed in Vermont in 1953. And now eleven states have bottle bill laws.
It has been over two decades since the Senate has evaluated the merits of deposit legislation to encourage greater beverage container recycling. I hope that today's hearing galvanizes the beverage industry to work cooperatively with other stakeholders to accept deposit systems or develop other solutions to the beverage container waste problem.
Every Congress, we hold hearings on the flow of trash through our states. It is a difficult issue that elicits strong reactions. One of the best ways to temper these fights is to ensure that there is less trash on the road in the first place.
It is time that we all work together to restore the public's faith and therefore enthusiasm in recycling. I look forward to working with all of you.