Why is President Trump stifling investment in recycling?

Of all the agencies President Trump would like to gut, according to his proposed fiscal 2018 budget, the Environmental Protection Agency was hit hardest. The plan includes a 31 percent cut to the agency’s budget and the elimination of over 50 programs and 3,200 jobs.

Two of the programs on the chopping block, the Sustainable Materials Management program and the Waste Reduction Model, are not well known to most Americans, but their elimination would have a major impact on the recycling and waste management industry, and the thousands of quality jobs they support across the country. 

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The programs analyze the way we consume, use and reuse materials and solid waste, providing tools and guidelines for industry, private companies and elected officials. The materials management and waste reduction programs guide investments into recycling facilities that sort and process material, and manufacturing infrastructure that utilizes these materials to make new products here at home – creating jobs in the process.

 

As a government agency — with no vested financial interest in the outcome of an investment — the EPA's thorough and unbiased annual reports on the waste and recycling industry attracts hundreds of millions of private investment dollars annually into the domestic recycling industry. In 2016, we invested over $20 million in recycling facilities and advanced manufacturing technologies across the U.S. Our capital was accompanied by an additional $60 million co-invested by banks and private equity partners.

These infrastructure investments enable small towns and big cities across America to benefit from increased recycling rates. In 2016, the recycling industry in the U.S accounted for 757,000 jobs, produced more than $36 billion in wages and generated over $6 billion in tax revenues. It also enabled cities to avoid over $1 billion dollars in landfills disposal fees.

Opportunities to invest in recycling exist across rural and urban America. As a result, investments in recycling benefit all Americans. For example, due to a recent investment in recycling carts for every home in Memphis, Tenn., the city has reduced its landfill disposal fees, is generating revenue and keeping a private recycling company that provides dozens of local jobs in the city.

In Quad Cities, Iowa, an upgrade to the recycling facility and recycling trucks has increased revenue for the municipality and maintains dozens of local jobs. A number of banks and private investment firms have co-invested with us and on their own in similar projects. 

The EPA’s research on waste and recycling in America also enables consumer goods companies and retail industries to access critical supplies of recycled plastic, paper, and metal that reduce manufacturing costs by investing in recycling programs and technologies that collect and return valuable material to their supply chains.

Recycling aligns corporate interests with the interests of the communities in which they manufacture, employ thousands of people, and sell their product. 

Every dollar that the EPA invests in research is multiplied by private sector investors who utilize this data to invest in domestic recycling infrastructure that reduces local landfill disposal costs, generates revenue, and creates local jobs across the country. This has resulted in significant investments in the recycling industry from P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Colgate Palmolive, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Keurig Green Mountain, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, and Nestlé Waters.

Eliminating the materials management and waste reduction programs is a short-sighted move that would deal a major setback to effective recycling and waste management across the country, and the jobs it supports.

When it comes time to forge a final budget for FY18, we hope that each Representative and Senator will recognize that the work of the EPA does not happen in a vacuum, and that research can have a real, tangible impact on job creation in the communities they represent. 

Ron Gonen is a co-founder/managing partner at Closed Loop Partners, an investment firm, and an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.