Last month, ACA sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) leadership, expressing strong support for a robust national recycling infrastructure, and to commend the committee for holding a hearing Feb. 2 on “Legislative Proposals to Improve Domestic Recycling and Composting Programs.” That hearing garnered bipartisan support for two bills — the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act, which collectively aim to strengthen the “circular economy.”

The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act seeks to boost the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recycling and composting data and would require the EPA Administrator to carry out certain activities to improve recycling and composting programs in the United States, and for other purposes. The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Acts seeks to tackle barriers to recycling, which abound for many communities, including in rural and low-income areas.

Market challenges for recycling are real, and with former export markets like China declining waste products, domestic solutions for recycling are necessary.

“It is clear that our nation’s recycling infrastructure needs significant investment in order to develop the systems necessary to improve recycling programs and appropriate waste management options for a myriad of products,” stated ACA’s letter. “We are hopeful that these two bills will lead to support for recycling projects that will complement efforts of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

ACA’s PaintCare Program

ACA highlighted for the committee the innovative and tested approach to manage post-consumer, leftover paint championed by the U.S. paint industry –PaintCare, an architectural paint stewardship program. Noting that leftover architectural paint — interior or exterior coatings used on homes, businesses, and other structures — is often the most common material collected by government-run household hazardous waste (HHW) programs, this leftover paint is also a valuable resource that can be diverted from HHW programs for reuse, recycling, energy recovery, or manufacturing products. To achieve this requires a convenient and efficient collection system.

Many government HHW programs have collected unwanted paint for years, but the cost is burdensome and diverts resources that could be used for managing other waste materials. For some local governments, it is simply beyond available capacity. ACA’s PaintCare program takes responsibility for ensuring an environmentally sound and cost-effective paint stewardship program, reducing the generation of post-consumer architectural paint; promoting its reuse; and providing for its collection, transport, and processing.

PaintCare has been a tremendous success: it is currently operating in 11 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rode Island, Vermont, Washington, and New York. In these states, PaintCare has collected over 54 million gallons of leftover paint and diverted more than 75% of it from landfills by re-using it, recycling it, or in the case of solvent-based paint, recovering the energy value from it.

While PaintCare is a remarkably successful program focused on the waste stream of leftover household paint, ACA’s industry and many other industries confront systemic obstacles when attempting to handle other waste streams in a similar manner. As such, ACA applauds Congressional efforts to advance legislative measures to augment the nation’s recycling infrastructure.

Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.