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tv   Hearing on Plastic Waste  CSPAN  July 15, 2021 3:57pm-5:41pm EDT

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has become a huge threat, not only a cyber criminal threat but also sam as you mentioned because of the implications for critical infrastructure like pipeline companies or the largest meat supplier in the country, these are very significant targets ask. they have increasingly become something that cyber criminals are targeting. ransomware as a concept is actually pretty simple. unfortunately, defending against it has become increasingly complex. >> sujit ramman over saw the national department's investigations during the trump administration. he discusses recent ransomware attacks and other cyber threats. saturday on "the communicators" at 6:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> next, a hearing on plastic pollution. a house science subcommittee heard about plastic in the ocean, recycling, and approaches to reduce plastic use in the first place. congresswoman haley stevens of michigan chaired the hearing.
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>> this hearing will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess at any time. before i deliver my opening remarks, i wanted to note that today is committee is meeting both in person and virtually. i want to announce a couple of reminders to the members about the conduct of this hearing. first, members and staff who are attending in person and are unvaccinated against covid-19 must stay masked throughout the hearing. unvaccinated members may remove their masks only during their questioning under the five minute rule. members who are attending virtually should keep their video feed on as long as they are present in the hearing.
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members are responsible for their own micro phones. please also keep your micro phones muted unless you are speaking. finally, if members have documents to submit for the record email them to the committee clerk whose email address was circulated prior to the hearing. so, good morning. and thank you all for joining today's hearing. and a special thank you to our witnesses for joining us here today. two years ago, i had the honor and privilege of chairing the first hearing on recycling in this committee in almost over a decade. since then, much has changed. but the problem of plastic waste and how to enable a circular economy for recycling continues. we only have to look to the past year and a half to see some of the important medical and safety functions of plastic. face shields, face masks and other personal protective equipment allowed america's
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essential workers to be on our front lines of our nation's covid-19 response. disposable syringes are helping to deliver vaccine shots in arms all across the country. plastic can be designated to be rigid enough to use in vehicle safety applications, durable enough to hold liquid products for years, and flexible enough to keep our food fresh. virgin plastic is also cheap to produce. unfortunately, the characteristics that make plastic convenient also make it difficult to recycle and manage after it has been used. global plastic production increased from 2 million tons perrer year in 1950, we remember, plastic, plastic, play, to 400 million tons annually in recent years. what's more, if current trends continue, plastic production is projected to quadruple by 2050.
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there is no one size fits all solution here. but what we do know, and where we want to start is with reducing, reusing and recycling. historically, the u.s. has done a great job -- excuse me, has not done the best job at recycle ing we recycle less than 9% of our plastic waste despite all the campaigns that are pursued across the country. for more than 20 years the u.s. shipped our plastic waste to international markets to be recycled. when one of the major markets closed in 2018, items collected for recycling sat in warehouses because many cities across the nation didn't have aological recycler that could process these bails of plastic which were too often highly contaminated. unfortunately, our communities face the choice of incinerating recyclables or dumping them in landfills. while market, economic, and
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other factors led to the current plastic pollution crisis, part of the solution can be to invest in research to reduce plastic waste and improve domestic recycling infrastructure and capabilities this. past earth day i was proud to introduce the plastic waste reduction and recycling research act alongside my completion from ohio, congressman anthony gonzalez. the bill calls on the federal government to develop a strategic plan for plastic waste reduction and direction the office of science and technology policy to establish a program to leverage the expertise of federal science agencies, academia, scientific associations, state and local governments, and the private sector. this bill will support research and international standards development to spur innovative, sustainable solutions that could create a world-leading u.s. industry and plastics recycling.
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research is absolutely needed into how to design plastics to be recyclable, upcycle existing plastic into high value products, minimize environmental impacts of plastic waste, and recycling on our climate. and to improve plastic waste management to prevent plastic from entering our air, soil, and oceans. finally, this legislation would support the measurement science needed to make sorting technologies more efficient and to update standards for characterizing the multilayered plastic packaging materials used today. no one solution will completely solve plastic pollution. rather, it will take multiple efforts. the research supported in this bill can drive innovation and innovation is at the heart of american industry and manufacturing that creates jobs. i look forward to hearing from
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our distinguished witnesses as our committee explores challenges and opportunities for adopting sustainable upstream plastic waste reduction solutions and improvements to the recycling system. before i kneeled to mr. waltz for his opening statement i would like to enter into the record two letters of support for the plastic waste reduction and recycling research act from the american chemical society and the national league of cities. the chair now recognizes mr. waltz for an opening statement. >> thank you madam chair. before i give my opening statement i would like to wish you a happy birthday. and i share your passion for this topic. i am an avid recycler and my 17-year-old daughter keeps me on track in that regard. so good morning. thank you for holding today's hearing. it's god to be in the hearing room with you.
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i look forward to examining reergeing technologies in plastics recycling. i would also like to thank our witnesses for appearing before the subcommittee and sharing their expertise with us. as we take a step back, i want to note that in the 20th century, the united states was a leader in the development of plastics. we revolutionized 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 plastic market. in 2018 the u.s. introduced 36 million tons of plastic as the chairwoman noted. however, the domestic recycling industry only repurposed 8.5% of it. america has a new opportunity to lead in the development of a circular economy of plastics. an economy that produces, recycles, and reuses materials
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to reduce costs 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 followly repurpose plastic without needing to hare jest any new resources. in essence, we can turn waste into a marketable commodity. and the economic potential here is truly immense. according to a report by the american chemistry council advanced plastics recycling could support over 38,000 u.s. jobs and produce nearly $10 billion in u.s. economic output. today plastics are integrate to our daily lives, but we cannot ignore their impact on the environment. in my district in northeast florida, we are blessed with miles of beautiful coastline. it's a main focal point of our lives and of our economy.
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moving from plastic waste to plastic reuse ensures the protection of play's pristine beaches which many on this committee like to visit. and floridians economies, that rely on healthy coastal ecosystems. i recently had the pleasure to visit the lager head marine life center in jupiter, florida, it was amazing to see the research and the marine life that they are helping there. but it was also very disturbing to see the amount of micro plastics that are appearing in our ocean food supply. it was staggering. it is dangerous, and we need to take action absolutely. i believe that using innovative efforts to bolster and optimize our plastics recycle will not only preserve our environment
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but also avoid costly reics haves. our national security is at risk as long as we are dependent on foreign nations, particularly on the chinese communist party for essential commodities or services. mark's clean energy future requires a reliable and stable sly of critical minute malls. my bill, the american critical mineral independence act addresses the issue of america's reliance on foreign nations to obtain critical minerals. i'm pleased that a provision of the legislation was included in nsf for the future act that recently passed this committee. when it comes the 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 plastic properly. secondly, we should not become
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reliant on china for yet another critical service especially when there is untapped economic gain to be here at home. the subcommittee's role is to face the challenges facing our nation. that's what we are doing here today. we have witnesses from academia and industry working on new solutions to plastics recycling, including chemical recycling and applying robots and artificial intelligence to material sorting. i look forward to our conversation. innovation in these areas will ensure a better world for her children and grandchildren. thank you madam chair. i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the chairwoman of the full committee, chairwoman johnson, for an opening statement. >> good morning. thank you chairwoman stevens for holding today's hearing. and happy birthday.
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leaders across the globe are wrestling with the need to reduce plastic waste. and i appreciate the fact that you chairwoman stevens and congressman gonzalez -- this bipartisan leadership on legislation you introduced supporting research and development activities to help reduce plastic waste. communities across the country, including my district of dallas, texas, are trying to find solutions to deal with the increasing levels of plastic waste. the statistics concerning plastic pollution are indeed staggering. in 2018, plastic waste was the third largest source of municipal solid waste in the united states. in a that year alone we generated 35.7 million tons of
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plastic waste. we recycled 3 million tons. some busted 5.6 million tons and put 27 million tons of plastic in waste landfills. these statistics make it imperative to support research that can help us move forward in a sustainable way. experts agree that no single solution will solve the plastic waste crisis. we must have an all the above approach. to that end it is important to understand variance to the recycling system, the potential for upstream solutions and what research technology and data gaps we need to fill. also critical is understanding the need for standards development and new assessment
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models to help us achieve sustainable systems. collaboration will be key between federal agencies, state and local governments. academia, the private sector, and international partners.h it is achieving -- working toward achieving sustainability goals for our environment. i look forward to this discussion, and i thank you and yield back. >> great. thank you madam chair f. there are members who wish to submit additional opening statements, your statements will be added to the report at this point. also at this time i would like to introduce our witnesses. our first witness is ms. keefe harrison. ms. harrison is the chief executive officer of the recycling partnership, a national, non-profit dedicated
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to protecting the planet by fixing recycling and activating a circular economy throughout the united states. she is an international speaker, media pundit, and environmental author dedicated to engaging companies in making measurable, lasting change in communities. under her leadership, the recycling partnership has grown significantly, engaging more than 70 funding partners, and reaching more than half of american households. our next witness is dr. mark hill myer. the doctor is the director and principal effector of the university of minnesota nsf center for sustainable polymers. he joined the department of chemistry faculty at the university of minnesota in 199 and is currently the mcknight presidential undo youed chair in chemistry at the university where his research focuses on the synthesis and self assembly of multifunctional polymers.
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doctor hill myer served as an associate editoror for the acs journal from 2013 to 2018? >> and he has been editor in chief since 2018. our third witness is dr. gregory koeleian. he holds appointments as a professor in the school of environment and sustainable and the department of civil and environmental engineering. his research focuses on the development and application of life cycle models and sustainability metrics to guide the design and improvement of products and technology. our final witness is mr. joshua baca. mr. baca is the vice president of the plastics division at the american chemistry council. in this role, he oversees strategic programs to advance a
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science-based policy agenda, national outreach, and sustainability initiatives on behalf of america's leading plastic makers. he also leads industry initiatives and fosters multistake holder dialogue around helping end blast waste by creating a more circular economy. as our witnesses each know, you will each have five minutes for your spoken testimony. your written testimony will be included for the record of the hearing. after you have concluded your spoken testimony we will begin with questions. each member will have five minutes to question the man. we will start with ms. hairson's testimony. >> thank you for the opportunity to competent with you about this important topic. as you know i am the ceo of the recycling partnership, and we are a national non-profit that works with companies, communities, and policies to
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strengthen the u.s. recycling system. you may remember a recent campaign in d.c. to boost recycling. that was an example of the type of grant that we give and how we partner with thousands of cities across the county -- across the country. the recycling partnership is designed to bring together public and private akt secretary yours because without coordination recycling will never deliver the solutions we all need. recycling is when something old becomes something new again. but we need to ensure that is by plan and not just by chance as is the current case. we are here today to talk about how to exkout that plan arc shared vision for the future, one of a circular economy moving away from a linear economy where we take raw materials from the planet, make stuff out of it, just to bury all that value back in the grounds after a single use. committee members, recycling is
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so much more than just putting things in a recycling bin. it's really about smarter feed stocks and smarter methods for manufacturing. but there's a hitch. as many of you have heard, recycling faces barriers that it needs help in overcoming. that's why we are here today. in fact, the recycling partnership just wrote a report that you may be interested in. it's called paying it forward, how investing in recycling will pay dividends. it outlines how to fix the u.s. recycling system and delivery wards to the environment and the economy. now, when it comes to practice, technology has an important role to play in delivering that better system. r and d can help us answer important questions like how do we better design plastics products to meet the demands of the infrastructure? things like labels, nnks, adhesives, they make a big difference in determining if
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something is truly recyclable. similarly, how do we make sure that improvements of the infrastructure are alined with all of the innovation of what's coming into the system, what is being designed? how can we develop standards to make sure that business across the country know what quality of recyclable feed stock that they are getting? and exactly how can we make sure that recycled content supply is available for u.s. businesses like businesses in all of your states. there is unify in north carolina turning old soda and water bottle into recycled fiber for clothes. a company -- envision plastics in california capturing ocean bound plastics and introducing feed stocks for shampoo and soap bottles for companies like method. in illinois there is shoe pan in michigan, al peck in pennsylvania all turning bottles
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into new bottles. why does this matter to this committee? three things thub top of mind for our discussion today, system solutions, scale, and speed. and are d that focuses on those three things matter most. technology only helps if it is part of a system. what's not needed? one-off technologies, silver bullets, individual products that don't add up to system changes. each up with of those businesses that i mentioned, and all the others like them have to overcome technical barriers in order to become profitable and grow. we need research to turn those technical barriers into bridging helping to create a circular economy not just by chance but by plan. we commend this committee for its attention to plastics in a circular economy.
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i am grateful for the opportunity to testify today. we look forward working would you on solutions that create jobs, protect our plane, and its people. thank you. >> thank you. now we will hear from dr. hillmyer. >> chairwoman steechts, ranking member waltz, and distinguished members of the subcommittee thank you for the invitation to provide testimony in today's hearing. i am honor to have this opportunity to speak with you today. i am a professor of chemistry here in minute men. pollmers are molecules of plastics. i have worked in the field of polymer science since i was at the university of from. since beginning a as professor of chemistry at minnesota i worked in areas of sustainable polymers in much of my research today has connections to sustainability. as the director of the center for sustainable polymers since
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its inception in 2009 i led numerous research efforts and sponsored portfolios based on sustainable polymers threw research endeavors that enable a say, lumbar economy for future generations. as a set a that depends on plastics every day and in nearly all established new and high and low tech companies we know that the convenience comes at a cost. plastic pollution. more over, nearly all the new plastic produced globally every year is derived -- while we all know about plastics recycling and the chasing arrow indicators on plastics the fact is a very small percentage of plastics are effectively recycled. to make matters worst most plastics are used for a short
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period of time in packaging or service wear and immediatelyis posed off, often indiscriminately. the value of that plastic is lost, waste is generated and very little is ultimately recycled. a staggering number of these discarded products result in ecological damage. the resulting damage to the food complain and our own health is a clear concern. using oil and gases to make plastics that have short uses ends up in the environment and cause damage the our ecosystems. it is unsustainable. however we all need pla it is difficult to imagine modern society without plastics. plastics contribute in positive ways, late weight transportation, food preservation and renewable energy applications. these materials are generally available at very low cost. the performance to price ratio
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of plastic is about as high as it gets. while i can argue we all need plastic we don't me all plastic. dematerialization will play an important role in a sustainable polemer future. there are some places where we simply use too much plastic. we need a major change in way we produce, use, dispose of and recycle plastics. the goal of zero plastic pollution is lofty but necessary for a sustainable plastics future. to visualize it we need policy initiatives, improved recycling practices, other ends of life infrastructure and industry adoption for sustainable alternatives for products, packingage and processes. i am here to emphasize the fact that basic and fundamental research in sustainable polymers and is will continue to be essential to build a strong foundation from which new sustainable industries can be built. support play critically
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important roles. research in sustainable appealmers that -- polemers -- green processes to incorporate those chemicals into advanced polymer materials and post use will all positivetively contribute. this modern research aimed at understanding fundamentals and revealing what is possible for sustainable polymers is decades behind analogous work did non-renewable fossil derived non-degradable materials that dominate today's landscape. support and new initiatives are imperative to enjoy the conveniences of plastics and -- by view on broader research needs and sustainable polymer
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arena and my support for the proposed waste rukt and research act. mime happy to be here to share my thaults and visions for a sustainable polymer future and i look forward to answering questions you have. thank you. >> thank you, the honor is all ours. with that, we will hear from doctor, keoleian. >> thank you. i serve as direct for for sustainable systems at university of michigan i am professor at the school for environment and sustainability in the department of civil and environmentalgying. my research focuses on the e. of life cycle medicals our center recently developed the first comely comprehensive use of resin type across the u.s. economy. i wish to offer observations and recommendations based on this
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ranging from milk packaging to building insulation. the plastics waste crisis is more than a packaging waste problem. two thirds the plastic put into use in the u.s. when in environment other than packaging, including consumer products, furniture, electronics, transportation, and buildings. each with unique challenges and opportunities. less than 8% of the plastics retired in these products are recycled. multiple technical and economic barriers limit plastics material recovery n. theory most of the therma packaa plastics used in packaging can be traced to inexpensive virgin feed stocks combined with -- issues. estimated at 20 to 33%. commercially viable recycling systems cannot handle the volume and diversity of e waste. using plastics for piping,
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siding, trim, plastic wood composites as well as installation. recovery is extremely challenging, giving that building demolition produces mixed wastes with low fractions of plastics. plastics growth and transportation sector has been primarily due to lightweighting efforts and the specialized properties that engineered resins afford. plastic recovery from auto sledder residue is challenging. 39 different plastic types are used to make cars. separation technologies are very capital intensive and cost to separate clean and collect often exceeds that of virgin plastic, especially with low oil and natural gas prays prices. systems analysis tools are necessary to overcome these challengeless. first research is needed to fill in gaps in plastics material flow, improved characterization with facilitate coordination between product design manufacturing and material recovery efforts.
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this is needed to direct r and d and capital resources towards bottleneck stages in greatest need of innovation. second, life cycle analysis models are needed to guide innovations and robust cost effect live solutions. life cycle assess mmts of plastics used in products can -- they are necessary to avoid burden shifting and promotion of less environmentally sustainable alternatives. third, emphasize enter disciplinary r and d the develop plastic waste solutions. at the core the current plastics waste crisis is an economics question. sustainable products are -- when there are alignment. interdisciplinary research bringing including engineers, economists, policy analysts, behavioral scientists can achieve solutions and robust solutions more quickly. also, implementation could be accelerated when academics, industry, government, and
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community partners cocreate solutions. fourth r and d should trargt product system design solutions beyond recycling. i strongly encourage the broadening of the research scope to avoid or limit generation of waste. these strategies three dematerialize igs, service life extension of products, reuse and remanufacturing. fifth, develop of a road map to guide r and d coordination across agencies this can help set research priorities and avoid research duplication given the wide array of res skpin composite types used for the wide range of plastic applications each with varying lifetimes. finally plastic race reduction solutions should also reduce carbon emissions. humanity is facing a climate emergency. we need to priorityize -- in conclusion, shrugs solutions to plastic waste crisis will
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require a major transformation of systems through technology, community engagement, behavior change, and policy innovations. technological innovations and recycling alone will not be self. i fully support the goals the committee's legislation and hope my systems analysis based recommendations will help strengthen programming and implementation. appreciate the opportunity the share my perspectives and welcome your questions. thank you very much for your attention. >> thank you so much, doctor. now we will hear from mr. baca. >> good morning. let me first start off by thinking the subcommittee for holding this important hearing today. i want to kmebd the chairwoman from michigan for her leadership on this issue, her pragmatic approach in driving actions and her collaborative style in bringing stake hold together to solve big challenges we face as a nation. the american chemistry council's plastic division is pleased to provide testimony to this subcommittee. our members are the leading
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producers of modern plastic material to make countless goods used in a variety of applications and on ovations that improve the quality of our lives our environment, and our economy. acc encourages passage of the bipartisan plastic waste reduction and recycling research act f. he is passed it would provide resources in plastic recycle and ensure u.s. leadership in plastic waste reduction and recycling research. it would also enhance research and development and create standards and tools and technologies necessary to modernize and expand today's recycling systems. finally it will accelerate the research and development for advanced recycling technologies. our members are deeply committed to creating a circular economy for plastics and ending plastic waste in the environment.
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plastics contribute to sustainability goals for future generations. plastic waste does not. waste in the environment, including plastic waste s never acceptable. we are eager and taking action to solve this problem. that's why in 2018 america's plastic makers established two ambitious circular economy goals. by 2030, 100% of u.s. plastic packaging will be recyclable or recoverable. by 2040, 100% of u.s. plastic packaging will be reused, recycled, or recovered. last year we released our road map to reuse which outlined a vision and a set of actions to mobilize the entire plastics value chain to achieve these goals. our industry has worked to grow the circular economy for all plastics by implementing our road map. since july of 2017, our industry has invested nearly $6 billion to grow plastics recycling in the united states. most of it in advance recycling
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technologies. while traditional recycling processes will continue to play an important role in plastics recycling, they do face some important limitations. newer, cutting edge technologies known as advanced recycling compliment these traditional systems by picking up where they leave off and enabling communities to recycle significantly more types and greater quantities of plastics. advanced recycling technologies are innovative manufacturing processes that fundamentally transform the chemical structure of post use plastics back to their basic chemical building blocks. these building blocks are the raw materials used for making virgin-quality plastic and other valuable products. they enable more types of plastics to become resources for new manufacturing, conserving natural resources, and helping grow local jobs and economies. momentum for advanced recycling is accelerating across the united states and the plastic
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waste reduction and recycling research act will help sustain that momentum. globally recognize corporations and mature recycling enterprises are making significant commitments and building infrastructure at a commercial scale. technology has evolved and created new opportunities and credit breakthroughs that can create virgin-quality packaging critical for commanding applications such as food grade and pharmaceutical packaging. there is a market for using more recycled plastic in products. 14 states enacted legislation to update laws so companies are more appropriately regulated in their doe employment of advanced recycling technologies. and a first wave of advanced recycling enterprises is achieving third party validation through international certification. we believe with the right approaches and commitment, the challenge of plastic waste in
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the environment is solvable. and collective actions by government, industry, non-profits and ngos will make america more sustainable. the stakes are high: plastics are critical to a modern set a. from lightweight vehicles to reduce carbon emission to sealing buildings and homes. delivering health care, preserving food and preventing food waste and contributing to an overall higher quality of life. engo, i want to thank the san bernardino committee for holding this hearing today. we appreciate the opportunity to could be late on this legislation and future legislation. and i yield my time back to the chairwoman. >> great. thank so much, mr. baca. as you can tell we have got a great group here. it is making for a very kyte exciting hearing. at this point we will move to our first round of questions. and the chair is going to recognize herself for five minutes of questioning.
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a recent federal study found that contamination of recyclables is a major cross cutting challenge to the u.s. recycling system. i have seen this in my own direct in southeastern michigan when i talk to my municipal leaders or others in industry. contamination of recyclables can occur when non-restillibles such as plastic bags are not sorted from recyclables or when food residue on recyclable plastic materials makes them non-recyclable. ms. harrison, what steps can we take to ensure businesses consumers know the quality of plastic feed stock that they are acquiring for making new products? >> i love this question because it's really about how do we make sure that recycled content is competing with virgin, right? recycling is all about manufacturing. it has to compete on price, on quality, and on volume. manufacturers need know that
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they can depend on recycled feed stock to be there when they need it. so contamination i think can be put into two buckets. one, a misstep in the design of the product of the i mentioned labels, adhesives, we need thoughts that go into how packaging is designed. i would encourage the committee to look at play iq.com. it is a new tool we designed with support from walmart to help suppliers align around common design challenges so we know as consumers when we get something off the shelf it is in prime recycling condition. and then the second thing -- the second bucket of where contamination comes in is really in the household. that challenge is -- we can sometimes call this wish cycling, when people hope something is recyclable and they put it into the inabout.
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they are confused. not knowing what it is about. does it have the arrows on it? that point, how do we engage the public is a really important one because it is not just awareness. we know the public is aware of recycling. we need to get to how do we engage them in the correct bafr of what to recycle on which day. education has been woefully underfunded. i think if we marry how things are designed for the system with how we leverage the public will we will find a better outcome. we are doing work in communities right now. we have a program called feet on the street where we partner with communities to make sure that we are addressing the key challenge to contamination for that city. that program uses oops tags on carts to trigger the problem that an individual household the making. you no he the number one challenge to recycling that many people make is they are trying
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their best and they put all of those recyclables in a plastic bag. when they tie them up in a plastic bag in most places that renders them unrecyclable by the facilities. that's the number witness thing that we go offer, chairwoman. i put it in design and consumer behavior. >> we are educating the public here today. and also just wondering how plastics in today's waste streams changed since the development the resin identification codes from 30 years ago, custom are commonly identified on plastic packaging by a number, one through seven, in a triangle. one of the things that we are looking at here today is what additional research is needed for better plastic characterization? and how could that research yield new standards and identification codes? ms. harrison, if you have anything to contribute on that, i would love to hear from you as well as dr. keoleian.
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>> those identification codes indicate the material's past not the material's future. they do not automatically determine that something is recyclable, even if it has a 1, it doesn't automatically mean. better research into how we communicate to the public with confidence that, yes, this was designed for the solution, and for the system, and that the system meets it in the middle, the system can take this i think would be a much-needed solution. i will turn it over to the doctor. >> i would agree. the identification is critical to help with sorting. but i think that other systems are necessary to facilitate the sorting. we should really also look at
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transferability of models that are successful. in the state of michigan we have a bottle build. so we have very higher quality in terms of our recycled containers due to the redemption rates that we have here, compared to other states that don't have that bottle bill. we have to look holistically at our solutions. >> part of what we are also symbolizing here today with the great panelists. i'm out of time. i am now going to recognize the gentleman from the nice state of florida who is right, those beaches -- us michiganers, maybe not at this item we are racing to, but there are points of time when my constituents are either in florida or looking to get there. >> i will see you in january. >> mr. waltz. >> mr. hill myer, i mentioned during my opening statement my visit to the lager head marine life center. i saw the damaging impacts of
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micro plastics in our environment and in our food supply. do you think that biodegradable plastics would be beneficial? seems to me it could be a bit of a game changer, in addressing the challenge of micro plastics? if so, what challenges to adopting more biodegradable plastics do you see? >> congressman, thank you for the question. this is a challenging question because of definitions of biodegradable that are present. biodegradable over what time frame, in what conditions? i believe that biodegradable plastics will be a piece of the plastics develop in the toe. of plastics that can be assimilated by microorganisms either in engineered environments places like micro
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composting and places like that or staped into the environment indiscriminately they could end up degrading over some lifetime. the key becomes how do we understand the fundamental prois he is of biodegradation over what time frame and under what conditions that taxi place? i think we want to be careful about plastics labelled as biodegradable as incentivizing leaving them in the environment. that's one thing we have to be careful about. but i do think that with proper compost infrastructure and education around this issue is that biodegradable plastics will play a role in the future of sustainable polymers. one example will be in food contaminated plastics. for example, if those plastics were compostible, they could go in compostible food waste provided the notice of was
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available. so the answer is a little more complicated and nuanced, but i will end by saying, yes, it is a piece of the plastics puzzle, how we will solve it, biodegradable poll percent will play a role. >> thank you. the answers always seem to be much more complex than most people, including this committee fully appreciates. mr. baca, we discussed that china has banned the import of plastic recycling for processing from the united states and many other countries. the claim is that it is due to the poor quality of the plastic bundles being imported. one, do you agree? and do you believe that china has other ambitions behind the recent ban? if so, what do you think they are? you know, i just have to ask more broadly, what would it mean for the u.s. if we were to
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completely cede leadership to china in advanced recycling? >> congressman thank you so much for that question. i 100% agree with you, we should not be ceding leadership on advanced recycling to any country. in the issue of contamination the challenge we have right now is a fragmented system, where you have 9,000 jurisdictionsed across the united states doing 9,000 different things. i think there is an appropriate role for congress here to develop a set of minimum standards that work to improve recycling access, recycling education, recycling outreach and recycling collection. that will definitely streamline the processes to getting more plastics and all material, frankly, into the system. i think when it comes to the issue of advanced recycling, the good news that i want to share with this committee is that advanced recycling is actually building built at a commercial scale. the fundamentals that have guided the market development of vnsed recycling continue to change and there have been tremendous breakthroughs in advanced recycling that allow us
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to capture all plastic materials, turn them into virgin quality plastics and reuse them again and again and again. you know, there is a couple of examples i would give you. a pouch, something that you use to get your food. that's now recyclable because of breakthroughs in advanced recycling. foam food containers is another great example of what a breakthrough is. the point is this technology is not static. it evolves over time. and the work this committee is doing in laying to ensure our global leadership is one i highly commend your work for. >> thank you for that. i agree i think that's an appropriate role for congress but then also that education piece. i can tell you my own family, we get confused on what is recyclable, what is not. i am an avid recycler. i laid the waste but it is difficult to figure out, even going back and forth from d.c. from various places in florida. i think those are absolutely appropriate roles and i look
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forward to working with this committee to move the ball forward. i yield my time. >> with that. we're going to recognize our next member for five minutes of questioning. it looks like we might be moving to mr. beyer for five minutes of questioning. you are now recognized. oh, wait. pardon me. dom, we are going to hold on you, and we are going to recognize my good friend from the great state of new york mr. paul ton coe. >> thank you madam chair. first things's first. great to see your mom in the audience n the real setting not the virtual setting. since we had a major role to play in the original celebration, thank you for
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-- >> today america's recycling system is facing greaters volumes of plastic waste with more complex and layered plastic products than it was designed to handle. even as the u.s. recycling market has grown more broadly our plasticing recycling systems have not kept pace. when these systems are overwhelmed we risk environmental damage, hard the clean pollution and most importantly grave danger to human health. we need swift and bold action at both ends of this problem making investments in recycling r and d and oversight of those programs while focusing individually as a society and as a government on the urgent need to reduce the amount of plastic waste that we do indeed generate in the first place. when it comes to r and d, several federal agencies carry out r and d and standards development programs related to plastics recycling, material substitutes, and data gathering. however i was astonished to
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learn there was currently no coordinated effort to facilitate multiagency collaboration to reduce plastic waste and improve recycling r and d. dr., keoleian what do you think the role of the federal government should be in supporting r and d and plastic waste reduction and recycling challenges. that is an excellent question. clearly, there needs to be coordination in terms of this r and d through the federal government so this we can most efficiently use our r and d resources to target the most significant challenges and bottle necks in our system. and i really recommend we develop this first characterization. you may have seen the spaghetti diagram of the flow of plastics through the economy from production to use markets to end of life. some of the areas are
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incomplete. we don't have data in certain areas to understand what resins are going into what systems. i first recommend that we really do more in-depth characterization of the different resins, end uses, and end of life management strategies so we understand fully the problem. and then the be looked at so th can develop infrastructure that's going to deal with long live products like buildings and automobiles versus packaging. so, i think that we through a characterization of the streams can, then, decide which types of materials we want to go after. and what end use products. so coordination is definitely key. i think that definitely starting out with overall accounting of
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the problem will facilitate better use of resources >> thank you. and dr. hillmire i'm very concerned about the climate impact of plastic production which are primarily caused by the use of fossil fuel fee stocks what environmental benefit are associated with your work in developing alternatives to fossil fuel based plastics. >> thank you for the question. it's pretty clear that turning to renewable resources for plastics will ultimately be the future in the long run. and the research associated with how to efficiently convert those materials from annually renewable resources like plants that sequester co2 is really a high priority. the bottom line is the ability to convert sugars from plants to chemicals we can ultimately use in the manufacturer of plastics
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requires fundamental research to support new technology that's stem from that because you're competing with an industry that is very efficient and has many efficiencies associated with the conversion of fossil resources, so we work on the center to try to use renewable more research is coming to make it technology logically competitive with the new materials. >> thank you very much. i yield back, chair. >> thank you so much, you really are the sweetest friend, mr. tonko, with that, allow me to recognize my colleague from ohio who has been a really great
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collaborator on this work mr. gonzález. >> thank you madame chair, happy birthday. thank you to our witnesses for being here and for your expertise. i agree, congress must get to work on ways to accelerate innovation in plastics and battery recycling, reduce the environmental impact and increase the security of domestic resources and supply chains. recycling and innovations in recycling need to be key part in addressing the climate challenge as was just discussed. it's of critical important ance we consider comprehensive government approach to spur rnd across relevant federal agencies, that's why i was proud to join the chairwoman in interdug the plastics waste reduction and research act. and applaud her leadership on this issue. s also important to recognize the unique roll of the department of energy in national labs allowing plastics
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optimization for advance recycling. mr. ibaka, in your prepared remarks you describe acc work with boe and national -- positioned to conduct research to solve challenges in withthis s doe nation labs how office challenged in that space , first off. . >> let me start off by saying in regards to the climate challenge. critical, as i mentioned in my statement, to lightweight vehicles and insulating homes. and some of the work that we're doing is focused on the ability to understand the lifecycle of plastic materials, ensure that we understand the impact on the environment. that work is currently happening. we've been working with national laboratories. we work with the department of energy under plastics innovation challenge. the key thing is that this work is happening right now. we are working with some of the leading scientists in the world to examine and research the best
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ways to recover, reuse, and recycle plastic materials. i commend the work. there's a critical work for the department of energy to ensure we do plastic recycling going forward. >> as a follow-up, is there anything that should be done to facilitate more by other stakeholders or other agencies? and are there mechanisms needed to promote more partnerships through these programs? >> absolutely. we can always be doing more to promote more partnerships. many of us, our organization collaborates in groups like the recycling partnership, closed-loop partners to name a few, to create a circular system here. that partnership is an excellent model in the sense we are able to capture more plastic and collaborate on solutions. the work being done by boe and the national labs, those
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findings should further inform the work we're doing. so es, part of the work committee can do is connect those dots to bring the stakeholders together to solve the problem of plastic waste that could require a tremendous amount of collaboration. not when industry is going to solve it. it is going direct wire -- require collaboration across the scientists, engineers, national labs, governments, ngos. connecting those dots would be a critical first step. >> my final question for you, there's sometimes at some false narratives about advanced recycling. could you discuss how important technologies will be to addressing the climate challenge? >> 100%. advanced recycling is a critical component in solving the waste challenge. we are developing technology at a commercial scale. one is building a plastic to plastic facility in tennessee
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that's going to cost $250 million. it's going to be critical because what it does is it takes difficult parts to recycle last x, take a pouch manufacture today to keep food fresh. it requires less water produced. it's easy to transport from a carbon perspective, but it's very difficult to recycle. advanced recycling takes those types of items, breaks them down to their building blocks, and creates quality plastic that allows it to go into very demanding applications by pharmaceutical and medical, and advanced recycling is going to be key as part of that comprehensive strategy the congresswoman from texas mentioned, that follows the above strategy we need to solve the problem. >> fantastic. thank you for that. thank you to our witnesses again and i yield back. >> and with that, we'll now recognize mr. beyer from
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virginia. >> thank you, madam chair, very much. and i want to thank your mother for doing the hard work 29 years ago and giving birth to you. i want to say that i'm very supportive of this act. i do believe that there is better living through chemistry. but i also think that the elephant in the room is, why not less plastics? we seem to be spending an awful lot of time with recycling's and plastics together, but long beach has banned a single-use plastic spill. there are 69 countries that have banned plastic bags. a dozen band microbeads, including the united states and the u.k. you are all about sustainability. are we not missing a big piece of this just by thinking about better ways to use less plastics?
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>> yes. you make a very good point and observation. we really need to look holistically at solving our problems in terms of providing goods and services economically and sustainably. plastics do afford benefits of safety, protecting products. but we do really need -- we do a lifecycle assessment and look at the impacts of production, use, and retirement. and evaluate the total energy, we has gas emissions, and waste. and there are definitely opportunities today where we could substitute materials. use more durable solutions. and reduce the use of plastics. plastics clearly have a critical role in our society, but i think we could be smarter with substitutions and -- because if
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we just focus on recycling, we could actually increase the proliferation of plastics and actually make recycling more challenging. and the volumes could go up, which means more resources. so, as you know, we are in a climate crisis. we need a different calculus about how we look at sustainable systems and solutions. and so i think it's really critical that when we evaluate innovations in recycling, infrastructure, we look from a lifecycle lens. and, you know, plastics are carbon intensive. there are other materials that are less carbon intensive but they do offer advantages. but you get these tradeoffs that occur and it's important to use a system's approach to address it. mr. beyer: yeah, sometimes just little things you see on capitol hill, many members will carry around the big 32-ounce or 64
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ounce water bottles, which is a huge improvement over buying yet another water bottle a dozen at a time. ms. harrison, you have a background in plastics, among other things, which scares the dickens out of me. the great pacific garbage patch is twice the size of texas. that's one of overwhelm five major garbage patches in the world. i just read we have up to two million tons of plastics per year in the oceans and rivers. what are we going to do to address this? ms. harrison: i think it gets back to your first question. i agree that recycling will not solve this. recycling is part of a circular economy, but it is not the solution. recycling is a reaction. recycling only happens when there's a big enough pile that someone can turn into something new. if we wait for that pile to accumulate in the ocean, we have missed our opportunity to prevent it from happening in the first place. yeah, i started off by studying
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turtles. and a couple years ago, i was on a research ship that took corporate executives and actually my biologist, my lead biologist from college, she joined me on this trip, because i said, don't you want to join corporate executives in the middle of the ocean to see the plastics up front? and we jumped in the middle of the water. we jumped in the atlantic ocean 50 kilometers east of bermuda and we saw the microplastics. but we also saw mackerel, we saw fishing gear, we saw forks. if we wait for forks to be in the middle, we have waited too long. we have to talk about a system solution that takes into concepts -- that takes r&d concepts and marries them to economic. i love this conversation about cross agency collaboration. we must think about it from a system point of view so we prevent the problem, not just
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clean up the problems. mr. beyer: thank you very much and i yield back, madam chair. chair stevens: thank you, and with that, allow me to recognize my friend and colleague, dr. baird, for five minutes of questioning. mr. baird: thank you, madam chair. and again, happy birthday. ranking member waltz and our witnesses, we appreciate you being here. and i appreciate ms. harrison mentioning hollywood, indiana, that makes outdoor furnitures out of detergent bottles. then just last week, i spoke to the e.r.i., which is the electronic recyclers international, a company located in my district, which specializes in electronics recycling. and while yes, this hearing pertains and focuses on the plastics recycling, i believe that some of the themes remain the same when we view recycling at a global level. and this is an issue that you mentioned in your testimony, dr. keoleian, the united states
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exports waste to developing countries, which excludes both plastics and electronics waste. i discussed the national security and the counterfeiting which occurs from exporting electronics waste. but that is but one issue. and as such countries also present severe environmental harm by improperly disposing of these materials, that being plastics as well as the electronics, realistically, what's happening when such countries import these plastics, and is there anything we can be doing to help in the disposal and make sure it's handled properly? dr. keoleian? dr. keoleian: yeah, so -- one thing, just focusing on electronic waste, i know the
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g.a.o. did a study and showed that there is a lot of illegal activity of exporting waste, hazardous waste. and so one activity that congress could do is strengthen the auditing and, you know, crack down more on the illegal activity because that is posing problems in terms of hazardous waste and how they're managed improperly in developing countries. so, and then we've talked about setting up the infrastructure here so we're not exporting it. i think we need to take responsibility, total producer responsibility, in terms of how our products are managed at end of life. and we can't rely on exporting t . there is a recognition we also want leadership in setting up the systems to be able to
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properly manage products like electronics to reduce risk. so i think, one, accountability in terms of enforcement of the current regulations that we have on electronics waste that go a long ways. mr. baird: thank you for that. dr. hillmyer, in your testimony , you suggest biobase fuels, i'm changing direction a little bit, you suggest that biobased products would make for promising materials to use in places, some of the traditional manufacturing materials. and so, with my background, i'm interested in how agriculture might play a role in solving some of these issues and provide the raw materials for making alternative materials that would function for the same purpose. so, do you have any comments in that regard? dr. hillmyer: congressman, thank
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you. absolutely. there is really -- i spoke about in my testimony biobased products and the idea that you would use annually renewable crops to generate not only new chemicals but incumbent chemicals that could be drop-in replacements for petroleum-based materials i think is an active and important area of research. one area that i think is important now is the ability to use non-nutrition biomass so that there is no disruption of the food chain. but, of course, it turns out it's a lot easier to process things like corn and sugar beets and other materials that have sugars that are more readily accessible to fermentation processes, for example. that basic research and that fundamental understanding of how to convert those biobased resources into both new chemicals and drop-in replacements is in need of more effort and more research to make
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these things technologically viable. in the fullness of time, using, like i said nonnutritive biomass, is a really important goal for the industry. mr. baird: thank you. i see i'm out of time so i yield back, madam chair. chair stevens: perfectly on time. and with that, the chair's going to recognize dr. bill foster for five minutes of questioning. mr. foster: thank you, madam chair. mr. baca, first off, thank you for your shot out to argon national labs, not only because i represent them, but it's a perfect example, you know, the research you cited, of why this committee is committed on a bipartisan basis to doubling d.o.e.'s budget across the whole range of missions. it's one small but important part. my question to anyone that wants to try, what do you do with high performance plastics?
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how do you deal with plastics that have glass fibers for structural strength or color? are there classes of really high performance plastics, high temperature epoxies and so on for which there is not going to be a realistic recycling scenario or -- what fraction of the current potential market is this? should we just focus on the generic plastics and acknowledge there is some classes, hopefully small volume, that are going to be really tough and we should for now give up on them? anyone want to take a stab? dr. hillmyer: i don't mind taking a stab, at least some aspect of it. i think you have an important point in that high performance materials, for example composite materials, certainly have challenges associated with how to recycle them. the contemporary research in this arena in the thermoset
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arena is actually going on at the center for sustainable polymers is how are you able to reprocess these materials? thermosets are typically viewed as unreprocessable. but current research and dynamic exchange of covalent bonds allows for these materials to be reprocessed in ways that were not available before. so, while recycling, biodegradation, and other aspects of solving this waste dilemma are important i do think reuse and reprocessing of materials could play a role and may very well come along with the composite materials and fiberglass that's in there. i'll end by saying that, yes, these are a smaller portion of our plastics waste dilemma. i do not think we should ignore it, but i think there are more
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pressing issues, such as the more common plastic packaging. mr. foster: does anyone -- how do you rebuild the future of this? are we going more and more to solvent type of recycling? what are the future technologies? or just do a really good job with chemical separation with robotics? what are the technologies that are going to end up being important in this? mr. baca: well, congressman, i'll take a shot at that. i think some of the work i talked about in regards to recycling is focused on plastic packaging. there is no doubt we can learn from how we scale it across other industries. we as a industry represent a variety of companies that do a variety of things in this space. one key area our company focused in on is helping create a low-carbon future by light weighting vehicles and making them more energy efficient. we have been working -- we've already outlined a road map that
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deals with the issue of circulate in the automotive space. and it's going to require a lot more effort by work on this committee and government agencies. think about that r&d aspect of it because what we are doing right now is we're solving an issue from a carbon perspective. we now need to think about how we make these materials more sustainable and reutilize them over and over and over again. i was speaking to a sustainability fellow, and even thinking about their vision a little bit, with the electrification of cars, autonomous vehicles for instance, those parts are valuable. they have high value that could be used again and again. there is no doubt that more work needs to be done. my hope would be that some of the work and the breakthroughs on things like advanced recycling could extend into some these other applications. mr. foster: i think it's in germany where they actually have requirements for recyclability of cars they are manufacturing? is that correct?
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you're talking about the dream of having, you know, cars that are assembled by robots at the factories. and then at the end of their life, they drive back to the factory and the say robots that put them together take them apart and separate them, melt down the plastic parts and cast them into new pieces. that serves as an ultimate end point. but the germans, i thought, were making some requirements already on cars. mr. baca: i don't know off the top of my head. we could get that submitted for the record. but i think your point is spot on. if you think of a futuristic world here and the manufacturing of vehicles, that vision you outlined is one that i think we wholeheartedly subscribe to. the material is super valuable. and has tremendous value. it's not waste. and if we could capture that material, break it down to its building blocks and reuse it again, that's not just good for the environment. it's a sustainable product, it reduces our reliance on natural resources, and it's going to create circularity across a
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variety of industries. mr. foster: and motor oil spray all over it. i guess my time is up. yield back. chair stevens: thanks. and now the chair will recognize the congressman from michigan, peter meijer, for five minutes of questioning. mr. meijer: thank you, madam chair, and once again, on behalf of the michigan delegation, happy birthday. just wanted to again thank both our ranking member and our chair for hosting this hearing. and i think it's an incredibly important topic and one that in west michigan, we care deeply about. we have two landfills in our largest county. one of which is nearing the end of its lifecycle and i'm proud to say our county and local officials are looking at ways to turn it into a sustainable business park to recapture the value stream that right now is
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being disposed of. and i want to also right now, appreciate the ranking member's remarks on the idea of the circular economy and what we can do to really close down some of those waste streams. and obviously, single use plastics is a main one. the plastics that are not getting recycled that are recyclable are also incredibly significant. ever since the 2018 national sword policy by china, we lost one of our most valuable output mechanisms and sorting mechanisms for dealing with that co-mingled but recyclable waste. we also have a very strong plastics industry and our third district that supports thousands of jobs. and chemical industry, auto manufacturing, and even in the package of breakfast cereals, battle creek in my district, cereal city, u.s.a. so plastics plays a vital role. i guess one of my questions first for mr. baca, as we are thinking about single use plastics and compostable
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plastics coming onboard, and i know we've spoken about some of the difficulties of -- or just the contamination that can occur when compostable or biodegradable plastics are introduced into a recyclable plastic stream. i guess are there -- what are the opportunities to be shifting those single use applications into a biodegradable or compostable alternative? mr. baca: congressman, thank you for that question. and i think both of those are part of that all of the above solution that the congresswoman from texas mentioned here. i think the key point that i would mention regarding this, and this cuts across a variety of comments that were already made today. innovation is going to be what wins the day on solving this problem. not bans or more regulation. innovation on how we deal with compatibility. innovation of how we create a circular economy for how we use
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valuable material over and over again. that is what circularitys what that will create is a low-carbon future that all of us want. because it would require us using less natural resources to create these products. so, to the specific point of your question, i think this goes back to the overarching theme what this committee is talking about today. more work is needed. we need to think and leverage the best of what we have, whether it's the department of energy, whether it's our national labs, whether it's the commerce department. all of these agencies play a very critical role in connecting the research spots to ensure science guides the expansion of things like biodegradability. research guides the things like compatibility. and collaboration continues to guide the work around circularity. mr. meijer: thank you, mr. baca. it's good to welcome a wince from the great lakes state. i should note your professorship at the university of michigan is named for peter weggy, the son
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of west michigan, directed much of his energy and philanthropy into environmental causes. he joined the term economocology, combining the terms economy and ecology. very much a believer of that. care for the environment but doing so which is economically beneficial. i believe conservationism, but also conservatism, are using that lens. how should congress be approaching that lifecycle of plastic materials to have maximum benefit for the economy? dr. keoleian: well, in addition, we also look at lifecycle costs. one example, we did a study for the state of oregon and bottled water versus reusable systems. and clearly there's -- using tap water and filling a container is going to be much more economical than using a disposable bottle.
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and, you know, the energy savings and the waste is significantly different. so, we need to be smart and really look at -- when we look at solutions, we do need to look at the economics. i believe we also need to look at certain regulations and standards because it's not just going to be innovation. i think it's critical that we take an interdisciplinary approach and bring together the economics, policy, technology, and behavior. mr. meijer: thank you, madam chair. my time is expired and i yield back. chair stevens: thank you, great questions. with that, the chair is now going to recognize the congresswoman from the ninth state of north carolina, congresswoman ross. ms. ross: thank you very much, chairwoman stevens. and i hope this is a very, very happy birthday for you. i also want to thank our businesses for joining us today on this extremely important issue that affects people's
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everyday lives. in my home state of north carolina, we're one of the top plastic producers in the country. as of 2019, we were ranked in the top 10 in the country in terms of number of employees in the plastics industry, with over 38,000 employees. but we've also played an important role in plastic waste reduction and recycling innovation. in 2009, when i served in the north carolina state legislature, we were facing serious issues with litter and sea turtle deaths along the outer banks, one of the most pristine parts of our state. in response, we passed a law that bans single use plastic bags in six counties along the outer banks. while this law was generally supported in those communities, it was repealed in 2017. in addition, we have researchers at north carolina state
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university in my district, who have been involved in plastic waste reduction and recycling research. in addition to the company previously mentioned, one graduate of n.c. state's college of textiles went on to found a sustainable clothing company that converts plastic bottles into fiber that is spun into yarn, knitted into fabric, and sewn into clothing. and i focused a lot in my questions about the next generation because we're such a stem focused area of the country. and so, to all the witnesses, i want to ask you how we inspire the next generation to get involved in stem fields, to be excited about recycling, and not using plastics in the first place. we've seen so much leadership from the next generation about climate issues and about things like recycling.
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beyond teaching kids in school, how can we better encourage them to pursue education and careers like you all have. ms. harrison: i would be happy to jump in. as a graduate of a north carolina university, i am happy to have this research. my degree was in human ecology and natural resources. how we put this together. that's what i look for i'm inspiring young people and young diverse people to be involved. when we think of how we engage kids into this space, i think we often think about campaigns. we've all seen those. what we really need is to spark the innovation of our youth and to look into the system solution we keep talking about. we can't just r&d our way out. we can't just look for a singular technology. we have to really think about pivoting from how do we respond to the problem to how do we prevent it in the first place? how do we know from the very concept of design whether it's an advanced plastic material
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like we were talking about or packaging? we know whether it's going to be linear, a landfill, or circular but it can become something else. that's what the partnership is doing to have diverse knit this space, to bring young minds to think about it holistically. ms. ross: i think i'm going to move on to my next question so i can get another one in. but if somebody wants to amplify, please answer. this is for dr. hillmyer. working on chemical recycling technology integrate a sustainable chemistry with your research in order to minimize or neutralize any potential byproducts of the chemical recycling.
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dr. hillmyer: thank you, congresswoman. we work hard on this advanced recycling in the subset of chemical recycling and trying to understand the fundamentals of how you can take established plastics and ones that we design on purpose to be efficiently chemically recycled. and we commented about use of solvent in green chemistry ways that don't require a solvent , that require things like maybe temperature or light that allow -- allow you to turn plastics that are useful in their everyday application officially -- application efficiently back to the molecules from which they came. if we can do that, those new molecules can then generate virgin plastic that has the same benefit. ms. ross: thank you, madam chair, and i yield back.
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chair stevens: thank you, and with that, we are going to recognize dr. connor lamb, congressman from the nice state of pennsylvania for five minutes of questioning. mr. lamb: thank you, madam chair. yes, we are nice. so nice in fact that on behalf of the whole state we would like to wish you a happy birthday today as well. to our witnesses, thank you for hanging on this long. dr. hillmyer, i kind of wanted to pick up where i think you were leaving off, which is, of course our jurisdiction on this committee really is to try to move forward the nation's research agenda and help answer kind of unanswered questions, particularly ones of a longer term nature that individual businesses might find problematic to enter on their own. so, would you mind just summarizing or commenting on the state of knowledge about where we're going in composting and the breakdown of so-called biodegradable recyclables and plastics, and maybe give me a little bit more specific insight
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into if there's two or three big questions that we can really help answer, say, in the next decade, what are they? dr. hillmyer: thank you, congressman. this is an area i'm passionate about and interested in. and i'll reiterate what i said earlier, this biodegradation, over what timeframe and under what conditions? and i think this is where the basic research plays a key role. understand exactly what happens. let's say an industrial compost at high temperature and high humidity as opposed to maybe backyard compost or in the environment. and how to differentiate between the chemistries and fundamental processes that go on in those different environments so you can understand and predict the lifetimes of these materials in the environment. the second piece that's important, i think, is what do they break down to, and how do we understand we're not just generating, for example, smaller shards of plastic that are recalcitrant? so, following it all the way
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through the breakdown process and understanding both the physical phenomena anti-chemical phenomena are critically important. and we have researched really trying to understand those fundamental processes, how do fundamental organisms breakdown will ultimately results from the hydraulics or biodegradation of compatible plastics? i view this, again, as a piece of the solution to plastic waste. but it will come with infrastructure and clear education and understanding of what is meant by compostable and how the process is actually -- processes actually take place. i think this is a contemporary area of research. more research is needed to understand the design factors. what you might build into the plastic to have it break down in efficient ways. and i love the idea of a systems approach where its design of molecules, evaluate performance, end of life scenarios that allow a complete lifecycle to be understood at a very fundamental level.
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mr. lamb: well, i very much appreciate that and i think the chairwoman will help us advance us toward that goal. do any of our other witnesses want to answer my question in the 1:50 i have remaining in clarifying the specific question that you would like to see us answer in the next decade or so. ms. harrison: i'd say quickly that i really encourage this committee to, when they think about composting i very often hear people thinking about composting and recycling. because recycling seems hard. when we pivot to what else, we have to ask ourselves is the list for making plastics compostable even longer. currently, 4% of u.s. population have access to that commercial composting. that's significantly less than those who have access to traditional recycling. so i want to make sure we're not pivoting to something because the current problem seems hard. but from the very concept of the
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idea, make sure we have a good solution. dr. keoleian? dr. keoleian: yeah, i would just add we think of composting as very positive. i put the compost in my garden, it's a soil amendment. but what we're talking about here is litter, avoiding the litter. it's a lost resource. this is plastic that has embodied energy in it and we're just dissipating it into the environment to deal with the litter problem. i think we have to look at critically what we want to make compostable. so, i think, again, it's back to holistic solutions. mr. lamb: i really appreciate [inaudible] if we can get the chairwoman's bill passed, it will certainly
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move us down the road to answering some of that. appreciate your presence and insights. madam chairwoman, i yield back. chair stevens: thank you. and what a nice note to begin to close the hearing out on. because it's true we've got a tremendous piece of legislation. and this hearing was the kickoff for this legislative session to really make sure that we're on the right track and hearing from stakeholders from across the spectrum, with mr. baca being from the american chemistry council that, if you heard in his testimony, and i'll repeat it again, is very dedicated to the all hands on deck approach. and also bringing in the expertise that we need to hear from to keefe harrison, has her finger on the pulse of what's going on across the country. and dr. marc hillmyer, who i feel like i could, along with
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dr. keoleian, your just wealth of knowledge and dedication both with keoleian, dr. keoleian at the weggy school as mr. meijer referenced, was an american hero and so dedicated to our state of michigan, both sides of the state of michigan. and, you know, dr. hillmyer, sometimes people confuse michigan and minnesota, but we know you're on the other side of the lake, a couple of other sides of the lake. and we can debate who really is the land of many, many lakes. but we really are grateful for your dedicated research and your time today. and where we find ourselves in this legislative session is really at -- i think the tipping point of something tremendous. we called today's hearing, moving from staggering statistics, if you recall hearing me share that just 9% of our recycling -- 9% of our plastics is recycled.
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how do we increase that? how do we even begin to think about doubling that to sustainable systems? the systems component, moving from staggering statistics to sustainable systems is so important because we hear about the individual enthusiasm and the consumer enthusiasm and even as ms. ross was referencing in her questions and what she's seeing in her district in north carolina, with individual entrepreneurs and business leaders, but we really do need a systems approach. and this also comes as a unique time as the united states is charting the path forward on our broader infrastructure, as well. ok, it does look like, as i was filibustering here, a colleague from another -- another colleague from the nice state of pennsylvania, congresswoman susan wilds, has come in for questions. so allow me to pause on my preamble and recognize her for five minutes of questioning.
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ms. wild? ms. wild: i'm sorry. i'm juggling three committees this morning. i'll keep it short. i have been listening to as much of this hearing i could because it's a topic of great personal interest to me. and so, what i'd really just -- i'll just throw this out there to dr. keoleian. a recent study concluded that large amounts of plastic would accumulate in the environment even if we used every currently feasible effort to achieve an 80% reduction in plastic solution by 2040. you and other experts agree that designing materials for recyclability will be key to sustainable plastic waste reduction. what steps do we need to take to ensure coordination between product design and options for end of life plastic management? that's going to be my only question because i know it's a big, far ranging question.
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dr. keoleian: so, one of the things i recommended that we emphasize in terms of the r&d, in terms of the investment there and the research, is that we have industry participate with the scientists, with government, to look at what kinds of policies can help make innovations more implementable or accelerate the implementation, and also even community partners. so we really need to look at co-creation of solutions. i think that will be really beneficial in terms of ensuring that we're going to coordinate between product design and end of life. so, we need to bring the o.e.m.'s that make automobiles in with marc's group and also involve, you know, those that are responsible for end of life recycling infrastructure.
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so i think that interdisciplinary approach and co-creation of solutions is important. and then the other is we really need to look at, you know, europe really helped push reducing the amount of waste in automobiles with their guidelines. it was mentioned about germany. well, the europe's guidelines on automobiles to reduce the amount of auto shredder residue, the amount of waste. and those kinds of policies can also help accelerate solutions that are technological. and so i think that's important, as well. ms. wild: thank you, i have to say, and this comes -- i have a personal experience not too long ago where i was on an island in the caribbean. cry me a violin, right?
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sounds so sad. one of the things -- it was a very particular island. one of the things that struck me, there are lots of places in the world that have a tremendous amount of trouble moving their trash, quite honestly, because of being ocean locked. i understand those concerns. as a result, i have saw little to no effort to recycle because they had trouble getting plain old trash off the island let alone dealing with plastics recycling. but it was tragic because here i was in a beautiful place with just an abundance of plastic waste all over the place. and so i think we're going to have to get to the point where manufacturers are looking at that end of life solution, that end of plastic life management where there's some way other than just -- because this is such a global problem. and if we don't look at global solutions, we're just never going to solve it.
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so thank you very much for your input. thank you all. it's been very, very helpful. the parts i was able to participate in and listen to. i really enjoyed. thank you. madam chair, i yield back. chair stevens: excellent. well, congratulations to my colleague for her three hearings and managing to make it in for this one because your voice and viewpoints are very important to us. and we are going to bring the hearing to a close. we don't have any more questions. i do want to thank our science committee staff on both sides of the aisle. i'm here in the committee room and it is absolutely set up expertly with great professionalism. we were able to do this in a hybrid format as we start to kind of come back to the way things were.
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and that's never a light switch, as we've been learning in this pandemic. but we were able to achieve the success and goal of this hearing. and frankly, we're in a nice springboard, as i was saying, to what's next. and we're going to continue to leave the record open for two weeks for additional statements from members or additional questions that members may have of the witnesses. i know we are going to continue to draw down on the expertise of this great panel of witnesses. and so at this time, the witnesses are going to be virtually excused. they're going to be excused and the hearing is now adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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[inaudible conversations]
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