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Cramer urges law to create recyclables markets.

Steve Cramer, Councilmember from Minneapolis and Chair of NLC's Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Steering Committee testified last week before Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Subcomittee on Environmental Protection. He urged the Senate to enact legislation that would create and maintain markets for recyclables in cities.

The hearing focused on a proposal that would establish enforceable, but flexible national recycling requirements to allow companies to reuse recyclable materials without relying on minimum recycled content.

Cramer outlined the two major problems facing municipal recycling programs: cost and the protection of public health.

"Local governments currently face high and rising costs to implement recycling programs at a time when many of our cities and towns are struggling to make ends meet," he said. "In Minneapolis, we have seen rapidly escalating recycling costs, rising from $61 per ton in 1988 to $110 per ton last year. These costs now exceed this tipping fee at our incinerator. During this same period, markets have deteriorated."

The cost disparity has become even more problematic as some cities are forced to landfill separated materials due to lack of recycling markets to close the recycling loop. Compounding this problem is concern for public health. Cramer noted that, "regardless of public enthusiasm to initiate and participate in efforts to reduce the need for landfills and incinerators, without markets for recyclables, local officials cannot continue to warehouse garbage. It becomes a serious public health problem."

The proposal before the Senate Subcommittee would require any company with total annual receipts of $50 million or greater that owns the brand name of a product manufactured in the United States and distributes for retail sale in the United States, newsprint, printing or writing paper, or products packaged in glass, plastics, metal or paper packaging, to meet an annual recycling requirement. The same utilization requirements would be imposed upon products imported to the United States.

Under the proposal, each company would be responsible for ensuring that a percentage of the company's contribution to the waste stream is reused in its own products or other products, and not disposed. In closing, Cramer said, "We need federal legislation to ensure that municipal recycling programs are a productive investment in terms of time, effort and cost. We believe the pending proposal, by assigning responsibility to specific large corporations, will assure a measurable reuse strategy and result in effective industry action."

The Senate Subcommittee on Environmental Protection is expected to act S. 976 soon, however, no mark-up date has been set.
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Title Annotation:Steve Cramer, chairman of the National League of Cities' Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Steering Committee
Author:Yamane, Sandy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 9, 1992
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