[Press Release for the Recycle Congress Campaign, September 20, 2000.]
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FOE GRRN Earthjustice Sustain

For release September 20, 2000, 10:00 A.M.
Contacts: FOE - Mark Helm (202) 783-7400 ext. 102
GRRN - Lance King (703) 241-4927

Congressional Failure to Recycle
Costs Taxpayers Millions

Attention Broadcast Editors - Satellite Video Feed 'Congress Caught on Tape': Recycled Paper Contamination, Trashed Recyclables, Worker Safety Problems

WASHINGTON, DC (September 20, 2000) - National environmental and recycling leaders joined members of Congress today at the U.S. Capitol to call for major improvements to the failed recycling programs of the House and Senate that would protect the environment, ensure worker safety and save taxpayer dollars.

"More than 150 million Americans recycle every day at home and at work because they know that recycling is an easy way to protect the environment by conserving resources. Congress seems to think that the rules that apply to the rest of America do not apply to them," Bill Sheehan, network coordinator for the GrassRoots Recycling Network, said.

Leaders from Friends of the Earth (FOE), Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) and Chicago-based Sustain released results of a months-long investigation into Congressional recycling and waste management practices. Congressman Sam Farr (D - Carmel), a champion of recycling, welcomed the independent analysis.

"We have been trying for years to improve the Congressional recycling program with little success. Frankly, Congress is the most stubborn bureaucracy around. I hope that by exposing these problems to the light of day that the House Leadership will join in an effort to reform the recycling program before Congress adjourns," Representative Sam Farr (CA) said.

A video produced by Sustain, a non-profit environmental information organization based in Chicago, shows contaminated bales of paper collected for recycling, for which Congress receives no money. The video, made in cooperation with Rep. Farr, includes interviews with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR) on problems with the recycling program.

"Congress received no money last year for 71 percent of the paper it recycled, because more than 5 millions pounds of paper was contaminated by food waste, metals, glass, plastics and medical waste. Taxpayers likely lost millions of dollars over the past 5 years due to mismanagement by the Architect of the Capitol, including lost recycling revenue and needlessly paying for landfill disposal of materials that could have been recycled," said Lance King, who led the research effort on behalf of GRRN.

Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder linked problems in recycling to anti-environmental actions of the 106th Congress. "If Congress can't run an effective recycling program, how can Americans trust them to protect our environment?" said FOE's Brent Blackwelder.

Becky Hollenbeck, a 12-year old student from House Speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional district read a letter appealing for action to improve the recycling program. Hollenbeck is a young environmentalist active in the Sierra Club.

Joan Mulhern, legislative counsel for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, said, "The failure to recycle is one more stark example of anti-environmental actions by this Congress. Already this year, over forty provisions called 'riders' that are used to weaken environmental laws have been tacked on to various spending bills. The House is doing a double whammy on the environment, on one hand passing 'riders' to roll back federal protections, and on the other, eliminating even modest improvements to Congressional recycling programs."

The House struck recycling requirements from the Fiscal Year 2000 Legislative Appropriations Bill on a 'point of order' in June 1999.

Hazel Dews, president of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 626, joined news conference participants to address safety issues. Laborers and custodial staff are at risk of personal injury due to inappropriate waste management practices, violating OSHA regulations applied through the Congressional Accountability Act.

"While the House is thwarting efforts to improve the recycling program, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently directed the Architect to take steps to improve the recycling program for the Senate," King said.

Satellite Coordinates for 'Congress Caught On Tape', Video News Release

1st Feed:
DATE: Wednesday September 20, 2000
TIME: 14:00 - 14:15 ET
SATELLITE: Telstar 4, Transponder 6
AUDIO: 6.2, 6.8
2nd Feed:
DATE: Wednesday, September 20, 2000
TIME: 16:30 - 16:45 ET
SATELLITE: Telstar 6, Transponder 9
AUDIO: 6.2, 6.8

For more information visit www.RecycleCongress.org


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