PDF _ RL34617 - Recycling Programs In Congress: Legislative Development and Architect of the Capitol Administration
14-Aug-2008; Jacob R. Straus; 42 p.

Update: Previous Editions:
August 14, 2008

Abstract: The House of Representatives and the Senate created separate voluntary recycling programs in 1989, during the 101st Congress (1989-1991). Administered by the Architect of the Capitol, the recycling programs aimed to reduce the amount of material sent to landfills and establish the House and the Senate as leaders of the recycling movement.

The initial recycling programs in the House and Senate focused on the recycling of paper and the use of recycled paper, including white office paper, newspaper, and cardboard. While the program had modest beginnings, since 1992, when the General Services Administration (GSA) began managing the House and Senate recycling contracts, the House (9,939 tons) and the Senate (5,117 tons) have recycled a combined total of approximately 15,056 tons of paper.

At approximately the same time the House and Senate began recycling paper, they also began recycling bottles and cans. Since 1992, when GSA began managing the recycling of non-paper materials, the House (572 tons) and the Senate (198 tons) have recycled a combined total of approximately 770 tons of bottles and cans. This number has fluctuated as the increased use of plastic instead of glass bottles has decreased the total weight of recycled bottles and cans.

In 2001, the House and the Senate began recycling e-waste (e.g., computers, printers, and toner cartridges), construction, and demolition waste products (e.g., carpet, concrete, ceiling tiles, and scrap metal). The additional categories of recycling have allowed the House (23,000 tons) and the Senate (15,700 tons) to recycle almost 39,000 tons of materials that were not part of the initial recycling efforts. Overall, the expansion of the recycling program in both the House and Senate has resulted in an increase of total tons recycled and a decrease in total tons of waste transferred to landfills.

Recently, the recycling program has expanded to include the recycling of cell phones and the composting of food waste in the House of Representatives. In the FY2009 budget justification, the Architect of the Capitol has proposed legislative language to amend Title 2, United States Code concerning the collection and sale of recycled materials and the use of proceeds. The new language, if enacted, would allow the Architect to offset the initial cost of new House recycling programs by using current proceeds. The Senate, by law, currently designates recycling proceeds to the Senate fitness center.

For further analysis of recycling programs beyond those in the House and Senate, see CRS Report RS22807, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs): Issues with Use and Disposal, by Linda Luther; CRS Report RL34147, Managing Electronic Waste: An Analysis of State E-Waste Legislation, by Linda Luther; and CRS Report RL31505, Recycling Computers and Electronic Equipment: Legislative and Regulatory Approaches for ‘E-Waste,’ by James E. McCarthy.

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Topics: Risk & Reform, Waste Management, Government

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