August 13, 2021

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passed by Senate Would Provide $275 Million to Launch Whitehouse-Created Recycling Fund

Grant fund will support state and local efforts to improve waste management and reduce plastic pollution

Washington, D.C. – The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday would invest $275 million over five years in a new recycling grant program designed by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to prevent plastic debris from polluting marine environments and having adverse effects on human health and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Post-Consumer Materials Management Infrastructure Grant Program will provide grants to states to improve local waste management systems, including municipal recycling programs, and to improve post-consumer materials management and infrastructure to reduce plastic waste in waterways and the ocean.

“A quick survey of any section of Rhode Island’s nearly 400 miles of coastline will show that plastic pollution has become a challenge here,” said Whitehouse. “This significant initial round of funding for the recycling program we created would help prevent plastic debris from filling the oceans, harming marine life, and getting into the human food chain.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Post-Consumer Materials Management Infrastructure Grant Program was established in the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. Save Our Seas 2.0, which was sponsored by Whitehouse and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), was signed into law in December.

“Education and awareness on the importance of proper waste disposal is critical to protecting and preserving our waterways,” said Joe Reposa, Executive Director of Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the quasi-public agency responsible for managing Rhode Island’s solid waste and recyclables. “Recycling and recycling correctly is a proven way to positively impact your community and conserve our vital natural resources.”

“Save The Bay applauds Senator Whitehouse for addressing plastics pollution with this recycling grant program, which will help Rhode Islanders reduce plastic pollution of Narragansett Bay and our coastline,” said Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone. “Plastic pollution is becoming increasingly prevalent along Narragansett Bay, persisting in our environment indefinitely, and breaking down into smaller and smaller microplastics that can harm wildlife and people alike. In 2019, Save The Bay volunteers collected 6,842 plastic bottles and 21,055 smaller pieces of plastic from our local shorelines during our annual International Coastal Cleanup effort. While cleanup volunteers make a huge impact by removing plastic pollution from natural spaces, prevention is the best strategy. The Post-Consumer Materials Management Infrastructure Grant Program will support this prevention.”

Roughly eight million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste from land enters the oceans each year. If no action is taken, the flow of plastics into the ocean is expected to triple by 2040. Plastic has been found in areas as remote as the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the ocean.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act awaits action in the House of Representatives.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921