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Opening Statement of Ranking Member Waltz at Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Research

Jun 24, 2021
Opening Statement

Good morning Chairwoman Stevens.  Thank you for holding today’s hearing to examine emerging technologies in plastics recycling. I would also like to thank our witnesses for appearing before the subcommittee and sharing their expertise with us this morning. 

In the 20th Century, the U.S. was a leader in the development of plastics, revolutionizing the world by making material wealth widespread and obtainable like never before. However, the U.S. recycling infrastructure has failed to keep up with the booming plastics market. In 2018, the U.S. produced 36 million tons of plastic, yet the domestic recycling industry only repurposed 8.5 percent of it. 

The U.S. has a new opportunity to lead in the development of a circular economy of plastics - an economy that produces, recycles, and reuses materials to reduce cost and waste. Investments in research and development of new sustainable materials and recycling technologies will help the environment and the U.S. economy. For example, with advanced recycling tools and technologies, we can fully repurpose plastic without needing to harvest any new resources. In essence, we can turn waste into a marketable commodity.

The economic potential here is immense. According to a report by the American Chemistry Council, advanced plastics recycling could support over 38,000 U.S. jobs and produce $9.9 billion in U.S. economic output.

Today, plastics are integral to our daily lives, but we cannot ignore their impact on the environment. In my District, we are blessed with miles of coastline, which is a main focal point in our economy and our way of life. Moving from plastic waste to plastic reuse ensures the protection of Florida’s pristine beaches and the Floridian economies that rely on healthy coastal ecosystems. Using innovative methods to bolster and optimize our domestic plastics recycling will not only preserve our environment but also avoid costly regulations, unlike the plastic provisions in the Green New Deal. 

Additionally, as demonstrated over the last year, our national security is at risk as long as we are dependent on foreign nations, and particularly China, for essential commodities or services. America’s clean energy future requires a reliable and stable supply of critical minerals. My bill, the American Critical Mineral Independence Act, addresses the issue of the United States’ reliance on foreign nations to obtain critical minerals. I am pleased that a provision of this legislation was included in the NSF For the Future Act that recently passed the Committee.  

When it comes to recycling, the U.S. cannot remain export-reliant. For one, media reports regarding China’s 2018 plastics importation restrictions highlighted that China never actually disposed of plastics properly. Secondly, we should not become reliant on China for yet another critical service, especially when there’s an untapped economic gain to be had.   

The Science Committee’s role is to look to innovation to solve major challenges facing our nation, and that’s just what we are doing here today. We have witnesses from academia and industry who are working on new solutions to plastic recycling, including chemical recycling and applying robotics and artificial intelligence to material sorting.  I look forward to having a productive and insightful conversation. 

Innovation in these areas will ensure a better world for our children and grandchildren. Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back. 

117th Congress