Weekly Columns

We all know recycling is a commonsense way to be responsible stewards of our environment – but recycling also strengthens our economy and creates hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs nationwide. This is something I believe everyone can agree is truly a “win-win.” Since 1970, we’ve recognized April 22 as Earth Day. In the spirit of this occasion, we’re working to strengthen recycling and composting to better protect our planet.

Most Arkansans are familiar with traditional recycling efforts in their communities that encourage citizens to recycle household or business goods such as paper, soda cans and bottles. However recycling is much broader than these common practices. It is a $200 billion industry that has created more than 680,0000 jobs in our country, and entails much more than just traditional municipal recycling programs.

And there’s even more good news – it’s a bipartisan solution. Waste reduction is not a red state issue or a blue state issue. Nor is it a big city problem or a rural problem. That’s why I’m a proud co-chair of the Senate Recycling Caucus. Alongside Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and other members, we’ve engaged with the recycling industry to create opportunities to improve and increase our ability to cut down on waste and reuse materials. 

We’ve hosted numerous events to help our colleagues as well as the public and private sectors understand how recycling is commonsense and why it’s good for the economy, job creation and the environment. We’ve learned about sustainability practices that corporations and manufacturers have implemented. We can be proud some of the leaders in the recycling industry are here in Arkansas. Businesses such as steel producer Nucor, Walmart and Bryce Corporation have developed some great examples for others to follow.

One of the biggest obstacles facing the industry is the sheer lack of reliable, consistent data that is critical for formulating policy solutions to address our nation’s recycling challenges. With upwards of 10,000 individual recycling systems in the U.S. at local and state levels, it’s difficult to fix the recycling problem in America without baseline data to work with. We’re working to change that with the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act

This legislation would require the U.S. Environment and Protection Agency (EPA) to collect and distribute data on recycling and composting rates across the country to provide an accurate reflection of performance both nationwide and on the state level. This information is critical to form meaningful, long-term solutions to improve recycling throughout the country. 

We’re also aiming to expand participation among families and businesses in rural, underserved areas so they can play an active role in preserving our resources and improve our nation’s recycling and composting capabilities. The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would allow the EPA to create a pilot program to improve recycling services within these communities. 

I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Carper and EPW Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who are committed to building off the momentum from last year to advance these legislative initiatives. 

As we mark the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day, we are committed to maintaining the beauty of Arkansas and throughout the country by reducing landfill waste, preserving natural resources and saving energy through recycling.