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Written Submission to Senate EPW Committee Hearing “Federal Programs for the Circular Economy”

Statement for the Record

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

May 22, 2024 

Cody Marshall, Chief System Optimization Officer, The Recycling Partnership

Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito and Members of the Committee, thank you for your continued leadership advocating for and investing in the development of the circular economy across the United States. On behalf of The Recycling Partnership and our more than 100 partners, we appreciate your holding this hearing to evaluate how investments made by the federal government and private entities have catalyzed the circular economy.  

At The Recycling Partnership (The Partnership), protecting our natural resources, building stronger communities, and honoring the commitment of everyone who wants to recycle is at the heart of everything we do. Our vision is a future where the burden of waste has been transformed into a beneficial resource.  This vision can only be achieved when reduction, reuse, and recycling work together. Whether we are rolling out new recycling carts in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, improving the quality of recyclables in Smyrna, Delaware, or investing in state-of-the-art processing technologies across the state of Michigan, The Partnership brings together people and resources toward a singular mission to build a better recycling system.  

The Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) Grant Program has and continues to support communities of all sizes across the nation. The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act and Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act, passed by this Committee, will greatly increase access and transparency to recycling. Investments such as these enable The Partnership to deliver tangible impact for our communities by reducing litter and creating jobs. These investments also advance the circular economy by ensuring end markets are ready to accept quality recyclables, reducing the need for virgin materials.  

My introduction to the recycling industry was as a college student in rural Ohio, driving a truck and collecting recyclables from campus. I made recycling my career 16 years ago in Orange County, North Carolina by taking on the challenge of managing their curbside and rural recycling drop off programs. It was there that I witnessed the profound impact recycling can have on communities. Drawing from my experiences in Orange County and consulting for various public sector entities, I recognized a pressing need for coordinated improvement within our recycling system. With that ambition in mind, I was part of the team that launched The Recycling Partnership with the dream of a system that builds positive results for people, the environment, and businesses.   

Presently I serve as Chief System Optimization Officer where I oversee a portfolio of grantmaking to communities across the United States. Grants are more than just financial allocations; they are catalysts for change at the grassroots level. Through our experience, we’ve witnessed how funding for city and county programs can spark significant transformation within communities, boosting the circular economy. By placing emphasis on these grants, we give localities the means to deploy tested solutions and realize the positive potential of their programs.  

Now in our 10th year, our collective efforts, many of which have been made possible through investments like those made by this Committee, have resulted in the capture of more than 1 billion pounds of new recyclables, avoiding over 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Our community cart grant program has provided 1.74 million recycling carts, making it possible for more Americans to have access to recycling in their home. Our free resident education and engagement resources have supported more than 3,500 recycling programs nationwide. Just last week we awarded our 100th recycling facility grant to RecyclingWorks in Elkhart, Indiana. With this grant they will advance their infrastructure so they can effectively sort and sell the material from packages like yogurt containers and butter tubs that their residents are now be able to recycle. This fall we are set to announce delivery of the 2 millionth recycling cart made possible by our grantmaking. 

While we are inspired by this meaningful impact, we must commit to significant year-over-year investments in both infrastructure improvements and ongoing maintenance and operations. For decades, the burden of improving recycling infrastructure has landed squarely upon the shoulders of local governments and local taxpayers. According to our estimates, at least $17 billion of capital investment is needed to strengthen and innovate the recycling system and more than $17 billion a year is needed to fund the operating costs of the domestic recycling system. This can only be achieved through sensible public policies that will galvanize investment from the private sector, provide grants to communities, tribes, and local governments, incentivize use of domestic recycled content in domestic manufacturing, and kickstart the transition to a circular economy that is transparent and accountable in terms of environmental benefit and human health.  

SWIFR Grants: A New Orleans Story 

Local governments face tight budgets and are often forced to prioritize competing public services such as firefighters, water, and education over recycling systems. It is imperative that cities and counties possess the capacity and resources to pursue such federal support, and The Recycling Partnership is committed to aiding municipalities nationwide in this effort. 

Today, our national recycling system continues to operate with insufficient funding, resulting in just 21% of recyclable material being captured and a staggering under-recycling of all materials. Our data shows that 76% of recyclables are lost at the household level, emphasizing the critical need to ensure all households have access to recycling services and are effectively educated and engaged on how to recycle locally.  

Louisiana’s experience mirrors that of the broader U.S. – a recycling landscape that holds vast potential, yet significant recyclable material remains uncollected and untapped due to underfunded community recycling initiatives.1 Federal funding, notably the SWIFR program, plays a pivotal role in delivering critical resources to states like Louisiana to bridge this resource gap and demonstrate the potential of a more fully funded recycling system.  

In late 2022, The Recycling Partnership provided the City of New Orleans a $404,000 grant, aimed at revitalizing recycling services disrupted by the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in 2021. However, our initial grant was insufficient to meet the opportunity that exists in New Orleans. SWIFR funding is an instrumental funding apparatus that will continue to advance the city’s waste diversion strategies. Together with city officials, we developed a SWIFR grant application for New Orleans, facilitating their preliminary award approval in September 2023.  

The SWIFR grant is a public-private partnership exemplar. The City of New Orleans is finalizing a $3.9 million contract for SWIFR funds and will receive complementary $1.57 million funding provided by The Partnership. Together these funds will enable execution of a comprehensive 10-year waste diversion strategy, which will include phasing out the current opt-in program in favor of implementing a city-wide, equitable recycling initiative. Every single-family household will receive a recycling cart and comprehensive education, made possible through EPA support.  

As a result of the SWIFR program, the City of New Orleans will serve as a model of how federal and private funding can drive transformative change at the community level by eliminating barriers to participation, serving as a replicable and scalable model for other communities across the United States.  

While SWIFR funding is a critical first step to begin to address the challenges the system faces, more needs to be done to develop and sustain the local recycling economy. In the first round of SWIFR funding, 318 communities applied. EPA was able to fund 25 of those projects.  

Why is Recycling Important? 

Every year, over 46 million tons of recyclable packaging and paper materials pass through American households; yet, 79% of these valuable resources end up in landfills or incinerators. Those 46 million tons could be going into a strengthened recycling system and becoming the feedstock for domestic manufacturing, resulting in less energy use and an increase in natural resource protection.  


The hearing, titled “Federal Programs for the Circular Economy” took place immediately following the business meeting to consider how federal programs support local waste management efforts to achieve a circular economy. Cody Marshall’s oral testimony is found at 1:14:45.