Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Federal Programs for the Circular Economy: State and Local Perspectives on Efforts to Improve Reuse and Recycling.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank the panel for being here with us today.

“And we're going to revisit a topic that we've talked about a lot in the committee: the benefits of recycling and policy options to improve our recycling infrastructure.

“After hearing about specific recycling challenges, Chairman Carper and I introduced and shepherded through in the Senate the two bills that the chairman talked about. These two bills, the chairman's bill, the Recycling Composting and Accountability Act, and my bill is the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act.

“They both await action in the House and for the life of me I cannot believe that we can't get these bills over the finish line. We've been trying for like three years, and they're quite simple and just the very beginning step, but we're going to keep trying, we're going to push this try to get into law…we also are committed to an ongoing evaluation by the Committee of the capacity of our nation’s recycling systems to handle increasing amounts of waste.

“A fundamental challenge is how to improve the recycling collection infrastructure across the nation in the face of low demand for recycled materials.

“In examining that challenge, we should consider what, if any additional role there is for government, or at what level.

“The federal government’s role should reflect the well-established spirit of cooperative federalism that the regulation of waste management is based upon.

“Federal policy solutions should supplement, not replace or override, state, local, and private initiatives and programs.

“One area to consider is whether more clarity is needed for recycling labeling to provide better information to households.

“Recycling information should be easy to understand and in line with today’s recycling infrastructure.

“The ‘three chasing arrows’ label that we are accustomed to seeing on consumer products is outdated and actively misleads consumers.

“The average consumer should not need a microscope to decipher the [fine] print on a label to see if something is recyclable in their community.

“The lack of consistent and clear labeling on everyday products is due to great variation in existing infrastructure and local recycling requirements across the country.

“That’s why the pizza box can be recycled here in D.C. bit it goes straight into the trash when I’m at home.

“Today’s hearing is focused on the role of federal programs to support local waste management efforts.

“As we will hear today, federal grants alone are not a magic bullet solution, but they are one tool that can help spur private sector investment to build the collection infrastructure.

“Grant recipients can leverage that funding into zero-interest or below-[market] rate loans.

“This helps to reduce risk and attract private sector investments into emerging technologies and infrastructure

“Competitive grants are also inherently flexible funding mechanisms.

“This is particularly impactful within the recycling sector, as grants can be tailored to the unique needs of a particular recycling facility or community.

“As we consider the potential role that federal government may fill in our recycling infrastructure, I do have two key issues of concern.

“First, competitive grant programs are frequently accompanied by rigorous and complex application requirements. 

“The short timeframes and complicated requirements can disadvantage rural communities that are unable to compete with large urban centers due to a lack of resources.

“The lack of rural recycling infrastructure is one of the key challenges facing our recycling system, we must address rural participation in our competitive grant programs. 

“Secondly, the US recycling system will never be sustainable if there is an overreliance on federal grant funding.

“Grants should be used to attract and not replace private sector investment into recycling infrastructure.

“Recycling systems operate on the premise that materials can be recovered, reprocessed, and then resold to consumers.

“Without viable end markets with consumers willing to pay for recycled goods, those recycling systems will collapse, and we’ve seen that sort of in the past, regardless of how much American taxpayers throw at the system.

“I look forward to hearing from our panel today and with that I yield back my time.”

# # #