Congresswoman Haley Stevens (MI-11) recently launched the Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force, a coalition of lawmakers working together with state and local officials and industry representatives to facilitate investment in recycling technologies and promote education on plastics generation and recovery. Stevens has been a leader on recycling issues in Congress, chairing the first Science Committee hearing on recycling in a decade earlier this year. Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA-08), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Greg Murphy (R-NC-03) also participated in the launch meeting on December 10.
Plastics have shaped every aspect of modern life, but at the same time, insufficient strategies for recycling and waste management and the lack of robust secondary markets for plastics are creating steeper costs for municipalities’ recycling programs and devastating effects on public health. Less than 9 percent of all plastic created is recycled each year—the majority of these plastics are accumulating in landfills and the environment where the material will outlive the next several generations.
"Plastics have become fundamental to almost all aspects of our lives, from food storage to 3D printing technology, and have enabled us to make great technological advances," said Stevens in a statement. "With this progress, however, comes a cost. Some estimates suggest that Americans dispose of 22 million tons of products that could have been recycled every year. We produce far more plastic than we can properly recycle, domestically and internationally. The extent of plastics pollution is becoming ever more apparent and more alarming. The news is not all bleak, however. There are a number of new technologies that are being developed to increase the efficiency and availability of plastics recycling, repurpose more recycled plastics into high-value products, and ultimately, reduce the impact of plastic on the environment and human health. By creating the Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force, I hope to bring my colleagues together with industry and other stakeholders to build momentum around these emerging technologies and move toward a more sustainable future."
The Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force will convene periodic meetings to:
- Highlight changes and innovations in the private sector.
- Increase understanding of the challenges facing domestic recycling infrastructure.
- Identify and discuss innovative approaches to plastics generation and recovery, as well as the latest research on those topics.
- Build consensus among members of Congress around opportunities to address plastic waste.
"I am pleased and excited about the new Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force that Congresswoman Haley Stevens is putting forth," said Pat Williams, Canton Township, Mich., supervisor, in a statement. "I have been at the table discussing this issue with Congresswoman Stevens since she took office. Her efforts are absolutely crucial, not only for our local communities but for our entire country."
"For communities like Plymouth, the environmental benefits of recycling must be weighed against the economic and administrative factors that can make it difficult to maintain municipal recycling programs without increasing costs for residents," said Paul Sincock, Plymouth, Mich., city manager, in a statement. "As a city manager, I know that a stronger end market for plastics would increase the value of the recycled goods we collect, helping to preserve and strengthen municipal recycling programs across the country. Congresswoman Stevens has been paying close attention to this issue, inviting me to testify before her Research & Technology subcommittee earlier this year to speak to the challenges of overseeing a municipal recycling program. I applaud the formation of the new Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force, which will bring stakeholders to the table to help address our growing plastic waste crisis."
"Rep. Haley Stevens’ leadership on an issue of critical importance to the environment is greatly appreciated,” said American Beverage Association President and CEO Katherine Lugar in a statement. “The Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force will bolster our industry’s efforts to decrease the use of new plastic by increasing the collection of plastic so it can be remade into new products, and not wasted in landfills or as litter. This task force demonstrates how we can work together in support of new ideas and investments that will benefit consumers, conserve resources and protect the environment.