Taking our Recycling Laws to the Next Level

Ask any second grade student what we can do to protect the environment, and her first response will likely be “recycle.”  Today, this new generation is already aware that we need to do more to protect our earth, including recycling.  Unfortunately, government doesn’t do enough to make it easy for people to recycle, despite the fact that much of the public is supportive and interested in finding ways to do their part.

In these difficult economic times, I understand that recycling can seem trivial in comparison to the more dire issues facing us today, from rising unemployment to soldiers coming home from war.   The benefits of recycling are many, however – for the environment as well as for the economy. It’s for this reason I’ve sponsored a number of bills this session to encourage recycling and make it easier for people to do.

Perhaps the most obvious advantages of recycling are energy and state resource conservation. In Massachusetts, we understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint to diminish the effects of global warming.  Recycling helps Massachusetts residents reduce our carbon output by 2 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of taking 1.6 million passenger cars off the road for a year.

And the benefits of recycling reach far beyond promotion of a healthy environment.  Currently, Massachusetts residents throw away 1.5 million tons of paper every year.  If we begin to recycle just half of this paper, we will save nearly $52 million in disposal costs.  These savings could be used to fund programs that have suffered cuts due to the current fiscal crisis.

With tens of thousands of jobs lost since the recession began in March 2008, job creation is another timely benefit of a statewide commitment to recycling.  Nineteen thousand Massachusetts residents are currently employed in recycling businesses and organizations. Increased recycling and subsequent greater demand for employees in this field would be another step towards economic stability within the Commonwealth.

To improve recycling rates, I have sponsored several bills to make recycling easier and more accessible.   One such bill is the “E-Waste” bill, otherwise known as An Act to Require Producer Responsibility for Collection and Recycling of Discarded Electronic Products. This bill would make it easier for the public to recycle products such as computers, televisions and printers, which often can’t be recycled through normal municipal pick-ups.  As a result, they often end up in landfills, where they leach hazardous chemicals into the soil. It would also require the producers of this waste to be financially responsible for their proper disposal, removing the burden from municipalities.

A second bill, An Act to Increase Recycling by Landlords and Tenants, is a testament to the fact that small acts can make a significant difference in pollution reduction. This bill will encourage recycling in multi-family units by requiring the owner of any apartment building with three or more units to provide the means and materials necessary to allow tenants to recycle paper, glass containers and certain common plastics. This will make it much easier for renters across the Commonwealth to recycle.

I’m also proud to be a supporter of  An Act to Improve Recycling Rates in the Commonwealth, which will expand the our container deposit system to include drinks such as non-carbonated beverages, water, iced tea, juice, and sports drinks. This would add approximately $20 million to state revenue through projected unclaimed deposits in addition to decreasing litter and increasing recycling.  At a time when the state has had to cut important state programs, including those protecting the environment and encouraging recycling, it is maddening that the Legislature has not yet passed this legislation, which would help reduce the cuts to these or other programs.

Making it easier for everyone to toss our cans and bottles, cardboard, scrap paper, and even TVs and computers into recycling bins rather than into the trash will lead to an improved environment for current and future generations to enjoy, a more robust economy and overall a more sound society.  I hope that you will all join me in supporting these bills, and supporting Massachusetts through daily recycling.

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