On August 20, 2020, Maryland Recycling Network director Phil Bresee offered testimony on behalf of MRN on the state of recycling and waste reduction to the Maryland House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee Workgroup on Waste Reduction and Recycling.
During his testimony, Bresee pointed to the challenges facing recycling today including the impact that the Republic of China’s import restrictions on recovered materials have had on materials demand and markets, as well as the impact of an evolving waste stream (decrease in paper; increase in cardboard, plastics and food waste). These trends present numerous challenges for recycling and have implications for processing and end-markets infrastructure, citizen awareness, and public policy goals. He also pointed out the inherent challenges with zero waste goals, although the topic did not receive much attention in this hearing.
During his testimony, Bresee focused on several key areas. Below is a summary of each point. You can read his full testimony here.
Recycling Market Development and Infrastructure: We have neglected our domestic recovered materials end-use infrastructure for too long and that while there are some encouraging signs on the horizon, Maryland needs to do more to attract secondary process and end-users to ensure continued capacity for our recyclables and to unlock the job-creation benefits that recycling offers.
Processing Technology: As waste and recyclables streams evolve, it will be important for MRFs to continue to innovate and upgrade with new technologies to meet the new streams.
Education and Behavior Change: Consumers are increasingly confused by the changing materials stream, misleading labels on packaging, and program differences among counties. Resources are needed to design and implement effective outreach and education programs to help recyclers.
Realistic Policy Goals: When setting goals, policymakers should consider a range of metrics to measure results, with an appreciation for the realities of recycling market infrastructure and citizen behavior. The current recycling rate goal is outmoded and ignores the environmental impact of recycling and other waste management approaches.
*There are two additional hearings planned, including one focusing on composting and organics. MRN hopes to participate in these well. More details to come.
About MRN Legislative Committee
The MRN Legislative Committee advocates on behalf of the Maryland recycling community to ensure that legislative initiatives achieve their stated goals in a cost- and time-effective manner without creating unintended consequences that hobble our mission to promote a healthy, sustainable environment.
Each legislative session, the Committee meets with legislators and provides comments and levels of support for applicable bills. It is through the Committee’s excellent work that MRN has been given a voice on these issues. Kudos to the hard work of our members.