Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has introduced the Zero Waste Act to invest in solutions that address the waste epidemic plaguing the U.S. These funds will go toward reducing landfills and incinerators that emit toxic pollution into communities, especially in low income communities or communities of color.
“We can imagine a future where we prioritize people’s health, the environment and justice, knowing our fates are tied together,” said Omar in a statement. “Today, we need elected leaders to champion solutions that match the scope of the challenges we face. Addressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it’s integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.”
The bill will create a federal grant program to help local cities invest in zero waste initiatives. These funds can go toward recycling infrastructure or the creation of partnerships with local businesses aimed at reducing waste in their operations. The Zero Waste Act will create jobs, grow domestic manufacturing, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean waterways, protect communities from health hazards, save energy and further grow the economy.
Landfills were responsible for 103 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emitted as of 2011, or 18 percent of all methane emissions. Waste is also an environmental justice issue. Nearly 80 percent of incinerators are placed in low income areas or near communities of color and indigenous lands—including North Minneapolis and the Phillips neighborhood in Minnesota’s 5th District.
Original co-sponsors include Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Deb Haaland, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Ayanna Pressley, Chellie Pingree and Gwen Moore.
The bill is endorsed by the following organizations: City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Zero Waste Washington, Texas Campaign for the Environment & TCE Fund, US Composting Council, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Climate Generation, Surfrider Foundation, TakeAction Minnesota and Minnesota Composting Council.