GrassRoots Recycling Network Press Conference
Releasing the Welfare for Waste report
State Capitol, Atlanta Georgia
April 8, 1999

Remarks of
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-4th District)


As Earth Day approaches, many will look back at the 20 plus years of the environmental movement. There have been accomplishments and setbacks in that time, warriors and polluters, but undoubtedly, people will point to recycling as a movement that has truly entered mainstream society; one that has grown to make a difference. Glass bottles, aluminum cans, newspaper, and even old computers and used motor oil are recycled now. Waste products of all types can be reused, or reprocessed, to create new materials that use neither the natural resources nor the energy their predecessors did. Certainly, it would seem that people have begun to accept the recycling movement.

This trend, however, is shadowed by a dark cloud. Products containing recycled materials are not being bought, landfills are still being filled with reusable and recyclable materials, and our natural resources continue to be plundered in the pursuit of consumer production. It would be easy to lay blame for this upon consumers - to assume that the environmental damage being done is the result of millions of people's waste. But, as we know, this is not the case.

Paper continues to be made from trees, many of which are cut from our national forests. Motor oil and plastics are still made from freshly extracted petroleum. Cars are still made from 'virgin' metals and ores. Why aren't these producers using recycled paper stock, oil, plastics or metals? Because lobbyists for these companies have convinced the federal government that they are suffering. They claim that they are losing business to the newfounded recycling movement. Such businesses have tried to cajole politicians to help them out, and many have succeeded. Many resource extracting industries, especially those with a reusable or recyclable alternatives, now receive federal subsidies - corporate welfare - in order to maintain their plundering activities. Instead of encouraging use for recycled products, our federal government, instead, aids those who pollute and extract the most.

The time for this to stop is now. As more and more 'green' technologies are developed, enabling a greater variety of products to be reused or recycled, we can not stand by and let our federal government and greedy businesses plunder and extract all of our wealth and resources. Policy changes, such as my National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, which would eliminate federal subsidies for roads and logging in our National Forests, and our Corporate Code of Conduct Act, which would seek to enforce environmental and humanitarian ethics on American businesses abroad, are essential to achieving change.

But, as the recycling movement has shown, people are the ingredient essential to change - people such as you. We need to support the businesses out there that value recycling and the environment more than a low bottom line and capital return. We need to support like-minded politicians, such as Senator James, whose Bottle Bill would bring our own State of Georgia up to par with other state's recycling efforts. But most of all, we need to make an example - we have to use recycled paper, plastics, and oils, to create a market for these products, and we need to continue leading by example if we hope to save this planet for the future.

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