Lawmakers revive national Zero Waste Act – Resource Recycling

A bill from Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar provides federal funding to help local municipalities invest in materials recovery initiatives. | Supachai Pakdeesrisakda/Shutterstock

A waste reduction and recycling support bill has been introduced in Congress, with lawmakers describing the legislation as a significant component of the Green New Deal.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., this morning introduced the Zero Waste Act, which creates federal grants to support municipalities in recycling and waste reduction efforts. During a brief news conference, Omar described a host of negative environmental and social impacts from solid waste disposal, including greenhouse gas emissions and the placement of incinerators in low-income communities. 

“The only way to combat this crisis is to move to a zero waste economy,” Omar said.

The Zero Waste Act provides federal funding to help municipalities invest in waste recovery and reduction initiatives, Omar said. She gave the examples of recycling infrastructure investments and creating partnerships between municipalities and local businesses that want to reduce waste in their operations.

She described the bill as a “key part of the Green New Deal,” the proposed comprehensive package with a focus on combating climate change and economic inequality.

Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced the Zero Waste Act this morning. | Phil Pasquini/Shutterstock

Omar said the bill is supported by a dozen organizations, including Minneapolis MRF operator Eureka Recycling, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the city of Minneapolis, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, the U.S. Composting Council and Zero Waste Washington.

The congresswoman was joined during the press conference by several co-sponsors of the legislation, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who described the role of government in supporting recycling efforts.

“The community, given the tools, given the information, will work with us,” Blumenauer said. But government needs to be involved in “developing the infrastructure necessary to have the grants, the innovation to be able to make this happen,” he added.

Similar legislation was previously introduced by former U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who in 2017 sponsored the Zero Waste Development and Expansion Act.

Ellison, who now serves as attorney general in Minnesota, spoke to the importance of federal support for recycling during the 2017 Resource Recycling Conference and Trade Show. Eureka Recycling, which also supported the 2017 Zero Waste Act, wrote about that iteration of the bill in an op-ed for Resource Recycling.

The Zero Waste Act introduction comes at the same time other federal lawmakers are gearing up to introduce national legislation targeting plastic waste.

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