[Letter to the Honorable J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker, September 20, 2000.]
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| 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.
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.
- 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.
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
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
Friends of the Earth
GrassRoots Recycling Network
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
cc: Hon. Richard Gephardt, House Minority Leader