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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., joined two colleagues this week to reintroduce legislation intended to increase recycling and composting.

The Senate passed the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act during the previous Congress, but the House of Representatives did not consider either measure. Boozman, along with Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, reintroduced the two bills Wednesday ahead of Earth Day today.

"Fortunately, we have made remarkable progress over the past five decades following that very first Earth Day," Carper said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

"Today, we celebrate the opportunity to build on this progress, to leave behind a livable planet with our bipartisan recycling legislation."

Boozman, of Rogers, serves alongside Carper and Capito on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Carper is the committee's chairman, while Capito is its top Republican member. Carper and Boozman lead the Senate's Recycling Caucus.

"This is not a red or a blue state issue," Boozman said. "Recycling is good for the economy, it creates jobs and helps the environment. Everyone should be able to get on board with those incentives."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 681,000 jobs in the United States are associated with recycling and reuse activities. The senators applauded the economic value of recycling but stressed the challenges in increasing the nation's 32.1% recycling rate.

"In order to grow these numbers, we need to ensure that people who want to participate really can," Capito said, "particularly those in rural and underserved areas, such as areas of my state, so they can do so."

The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act would require the EPA to work with local, state and tribal governments on assessments for developing a national composting strategy. The federal agency would additionally be responsible for publishing a report regarding the availability of recycling and composting programs and how communities handle different materials.

The data, the senators argued, is critical in establishing the best recycling and composting practices. The EPA would create voluntary guidelines for maintaining recycling systems, such as guidance on labeling recyclable materials and resources to inform residents about programs.

"As it stands, there's no standardized data for our national recycling system since there are upwards of 10,000 individual recycling systems in the U.S. at local and state levels," Boozman said. "It's hard to fix a recycling problem -- it's hard to fix any problem -- if you don't have a baseline data point to work with. That's what this bill is all about."

Carper said the bill aligns with the EPA's goal of increasing the national recycling rate to 50% by 2030.

"It's clear we have a long ways to go," he added.

The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would incentivize underserved communities to improve recycling availability; a new pilot program would provide governments in the same geographic area with grants to boost efforts such as collection and public-private partnerships.

Capito -- whose home state's capital city has a population of fewer than 50,000 people -- said governments in rural areas struggle to operate recycling programs because of insufficient resources and opportunities.

"For many of our smaller cities and towns ... recycling services -- including curbside recycling -- are just simply not available," she said. "These rural areas share common barriers to accessibility: location and proximity to material recovery facilities, and the size and density of the population."

Boozman said communities should aspire to increase recycling rates, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between public and private groups in developing and implementing the best practices.

"While these bills will not completely fix our nation's recycling system, we know it's progress," Boozman said. "If we keep building on commonsense wins, I'm confident the U.S. can become the leader globally in recycling as it should be."

To read this story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette click Here