Recycling Is Rubbish: Reinvent, Realign, and Restructure U.S. Material Management

July 2022
ELR 10539
James D. Brien

The United States currently does not have capacity to recycle its waste domestically, nor can it export the amount of waste it once did. Many states are trying to solve this crisis through novel legislation, but states cannot solve this crisis on their own. This Article argues that the federal government should take the lead in developing new law and policy designed to increase national recycling rates. Specifically, it proposes enacting federal legislation to: (1) eliminate special tax subsidies for virgin materials; (2) charge a fee to producers of packaging materials; (3) reform regulations on environmental marketing claims; and (4) standardize recycling bins across the country. These four steps will work together to substantially increase U.S. recycling rates, while also decreasing the volume of packaging waste in the waste stream.

James D. Brien is a 2023 J.D. candidate at Vermont Law School.

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