[Letter to the Honorable J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker, September 20, 2000.]
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FOE GRRN Earthjustice Sustain

Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Millions of Americans integrate recycling into their daily routines at home or work because they know that recycling is an easy way to protect the environment by conserving resources.

Meanwhile, Congress is failing to run its own recycling program effectively. Lack of effective recycling in the House and Senate wastes taxpayer dollars. In the last 5 years, sloppy practices and even open hostility from some House members towards recycling have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

  • Taxpayers lost more than $300,000 in revenue last year because 71 percent of the paper collected for recycling was so contaminated that Congress received no revenue for it.
  • Worse still, Congress is throwing away untold quantities of valuable recyclables like aluminum cans and cardboard everyday in dumpsters going to landfills. Why should taxpayers pay to landfill materials that could be a source of income?
  • The safety of Capitol Hill laborers and custodial staff is also needlessly put at risk of personal injury due to contamination of paper collected for recycling by mixing with food waste, diapers, glass, metal, plastics, and hazardous materials such as blood borne pathogens.
It appears that Congress is violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in terms of managing solid and hazardous waste, and the Congressional Accountability Act in terms of OSHA safety requirements.

At a time when many businesses are reducing waste by 70 to 90 percent and doing it cost-effectively, Congress is wasting valuable natural resources and tax dollars. Even worse, these problems have been known for years. Leadership in the House of Representatives eliminated recycling requirements in an appropriations bill last year, and has failed to take any corrective action since then.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the resistance to fixing the problems with the House recycling programs is not the only example of anti-environmental behavior by this Congress. In recent years the House has attached numerous anti-environmental 'riders' to must-pass appropriations bills. These back room deals to undermine key environmental protections are nothing more than give-aways of our nation's water, air and land to special interest contributors. The proliferation of anti-environmental riders in recent years is more evidence of the failure to keep the nation's House in order.

Between now and when Congress adjourns hundreds of tons of paper are likely to go to landfills rather than being recycled. Major improvements would result from the relatively simple steps of implementing effective source separation and expanding collection of recyclable paper and beverage containers in public areas.

We, the undersigned groups, ask you to take immediate action to boost recycling, eliminate waste and pollution, and protect worker safety.


Brent Blackwelder
Friends of the Earth
Bill Sheehan
GrassRoots Recycling Network
Joan Mulhern
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
Jim Slama

cc: Hon. Richard Gephardt, House Minority Leader

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