Rep. Stevens Launches Congressional Plastics Solutions Task Force

December 10, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON — This morning, Congresswoman Haley Stevens (MI-11) 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. Congresswoman 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) participated in today’s launch meeting.  

From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, plastics have shaped every aspect of modern life. At the same time, insufficient strategies for recycling and waste management and the lack of robust secondary markets for plastics is creating steeper costs for municipalities for their recycling programs and devastating effects on public health. Less than 9 percent of all plastic created is recycled each year – and we are on course to generate over 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050. The majority of these plastics are accumulating in landfills and the environment where it will outlive the next several generations.

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 our 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.

“Plastics have become fundamental to almost all aspects of our lives, from food storage to 3-D printing technology, and have enabled us to make great technological advances,” said Congresswoman Stevens. “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.”

“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 Supervisor. “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 City Manager. “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. “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.

Background: Rep. Stevens on Recycling

  • In April, Rep. Stevens sent a letter to the EPA asking for information about the agency’s data collection practices, their progress toward building out a domestic recycling infrastructure, and their work to mitigate the ongoing impacts of China’s plastic ban.
  • In June, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Rep. Stevens’ amendment to instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to prioritize funding to develop a national recycling strategy to ensure the long-term economic and environmental viability of local recycling programs.
  • In July, Rep. Stevens led letters to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler questioning their response to China’s January 2018 ban on certain types of plastic materials and fulfilling their responsibilities to reduce economic and technical barriers to recycling. Nearly 50 Members of Congress signed the letters, which highlighted the lack of leadership from federal agencies responsible for creating and maintaining a viable recycling market in the United States.
  • As Chair of the Research & Technology Subcommittee, Rep. Stevens convened the first Science Committee hearing about recycling in a decade after hearing concerns about the long-term viability of local recycling programs in southeast Michigan.
  • Rep. Stevens introduced H. Res. 303, a bipartisan resolution expressing support for global Remanufacturing Day. Remanufacturing is the process by which used products are returned to good-as-new (or better) condition, and contributes to sustainable manufacturing by recycling old products.

ICYMI:

Bridge Magazine: Michigan congresswoman pushes national plan to fix recycling woes

Michigan AdvanceStevens: ‘Record’ amount of plastics, rising recycling costs, pose challenges

Bloomberg EnvironmentMichigan House Freshman Sees Manufacturing, Sustainability Nexus

 

###