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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 25, 2021 09:07 AM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Study on Enhancing Recycling in Pennsylvania
In the near future, I will be introducing a resolution for the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct a study of recycling in the Commonwealth and of the feasibility of creating targeted recycling economic development zone programs in Pennsylvania.
The passage of Act 101 in 1988 required municipalities with specified populations to implement recycling programs. Currently, 1,930 of Pennsylvania’s 2,700 municipalities have a recycling program, serving 94% of the population. The Recycling Partnership's 2020 State of Curbside Recycling Report found that only 32% of materials are being recycled nationally. While that recycling rate might seem to be acceptable, it does not approach the levels many policymakers hoped for and it masks some of the severe challenges currently facing the industry. 
In speaking with business owners in the industry, recycling professionals, municipal officials, and environmental advocates, I have found that there is widespread agreement the industry now confronts a multitude of issues from dwindling markets, to material contamination, to escalating program costs.  There are even reports that recyclable materials are simply being landfilled because markets for collected materials are lacking.  The difficulties facing the industry nationally are consistent in the commonwealth.  This reality does not make sense economically or environmentally.
The study I am proposing will explore ways of improving the economic and environmental viability of recycling in Pennsylvania.  The study will include enhancing markets for recycled materials and developing recycling economic development programs in Pennsylvania as other states have done.  California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio also have recycling assistance resources for businesses.  Also, the study will explore best practices in local government contracting (such as zero waste authorities), examine methods of investing in local recycling infrastructure, and research how recycling can be structured to better benefit local economies. In addition, material collection policy will be studied to address highest and best use of materials (i.e. guidelines as to what packaging producers can label as "recycled”), and public education strategies to reduce contamination of materials in the recycling stream, which make it difficult for Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) to economically bring materials to market, will be examined.
I hope that you will consider adding your support to this study.

Introduced as SR143