Friday, August 05, 2011

Congressional Briefing Shows Connection Between Recycling and Jobs

Senator Carper of Delaware
Co-Chair of the Senate Recycling Caucus

On Thursday, July 28th, the RePaper Project attended a Congressional Briefing in Washington DC about the critical connection between recycling and building a green economy. The briefing was co-hosted by Senator Carper (D-DE) and Senator Snowe (R-ME), co-chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus. The intent was to increase education and awareness about the value of the US recycling industry. Ideally, the briefing also served to drive momentum and support for progressive recycling reform in the collection, processing, manufacturing, and consuming of recycled materials. Congressional staffers from both Senate and House offices were in attendance, along with private companies and non-profits.

The panel of speakers included Senator Carper along with representatives from Axion International (NJ), HiTech Assets (OK), the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (DC), Pratt Industries (GA), and the National Recycling Coalition-affiliated state recycling organization, the California Resource Recovery Association.

All of the speakers delivered strong and clear messages around the positive attributes of the recycling industry, including:

  • recycling creates well-paying jobs;
  • recycling reduces environmental burdens to air, water, land and communities;
  • recycling spurs innovation through creative end markets; and
  • the recycling industry adds billions of dollars to the economy.
However, on one key point there was a difference of view related to the export trade of recovered materials. The representative from Pratt Industries, a 100% recycled paper manufacturer, was the only one advocating to keep recovered paper at home for our domestic industries instead of shipping it abroad. His argument: that by having a greater supply of fiber for domestic use, it could reduce the cost of the resource and alleviate much of the pressure on our recycled paper mills. For the other industry representatives, however, this idea was something that they cautioned would be extremely damaging to their businesses, claiming that the export market is a major driver of their business model.

As a recycled paper advocate, Pratt’s message resonated greatly with me. How do we drive the market demand for recovering more fiber without then losing this necessary resource to countries that are willing to pay top dollar for the product, making it feasibly impossible for our domestic manufacturers to afford this raw material? This is a potentially life-threatening conundrum facing the domestic recycled manufacturing industry, with recovered paper being the number one US export, and unfortunately no easy or straightforward answers currently exist.

But that shouldn’t stop us from finding a working solution. We need everyone at the table talking about this challenge, finding pathways forward, and working together to create a model that can sustain a thriving, green, recycled paper industry here at home without adversely impacting trade markets. The RePaper Project of the Environmental Paper Network works to increase paper recovery and recycled paper manufacturing in North America and is facilitating dialogue on this question. If this discussion interests you and you’re willing to come to the virtual table, please chime in with your thoughts in the comments below or contact us.


Sandy said...

Thanks for this post. If you're anywhere near Mission Viejo then you have got to go to The Shops at Mission Viejo for your back to school clothes. They, in conjunction with the city and Waste Management are offering a Super Recycler award to retailers.

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