Local recycling hurt by federal subsidies

Taxpayer subsidies waste resources and discourage recycling. Welfare to Waste Report available.

by Alice Martinez


he California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA), Solana Recyclers, San Diego EarthWorks, and Richard Anthony Associates have joined a new national coalition asking Congress to end federal taxpayer subsidies that waste natural resources, damage the environment, hurt local recycling businesses and discourage recycling.

"We advocate materials efficiency, a new policy for the new millennium. It will support sustainable jobs and businesses in the United States and protect the environment," observed Jacy Davis, Executive Director of Solana Recyclers.

All four groups endorsed the report entitled "Welfare for Waste," which was released in 23 cities across the nation. More than 110 organizations and businesses launched a drive to cut 15 wasteful federal tax subsidies that undermine recycling.

"People support recycling, and it's time to take the next steps to make it easier and fairer for everyone. Americans want the government to stop subsidizing destructive, wasteful practices," commented Carolyn Chase, founder of San Diego EarthWorks.

Cutting federal taxpayer subsidies for timber, mining and energy would save taxpayers $13 billion over the next five years and is essential to level the playing field for recycling businesses," stated Krista Henkels, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the California Resource Recovery Association

"The Board of Directors of the CRRA endorses this report and calls for legislative action to level the recycling playing field in the area of tax laws and incentives that promote the conservation and recovery of national resources," stated Bill Dean, Chair of the San Diego Chapter of CRRA.

The report is the result of a year-long research effort by the GrassRoots Recycling Network of Athens, Georgia, and Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Materials Efficiency Project and Friends of the Earth in Washington, DC.

"As a small businessman working to develop resource conservation and recovery strategies, it saddens me to know that my government is encouraging the final depletion of our ancient and national forests especially when I witness the daily burial of our nations fiber resources," commented small business owner Rick Anthony, of Pacific Beach.

Major findings in the report are that:

  • Recycling competes directly with virgin materials, such as timber, oil and mineral resources, and waste disposal industries on an uneven playing field.
  • 15 federal taxpayer subsidies for well- financed and politically influential virgin materials cost on average $2.6 billion a year or 13 billion over 5 years. These are conservative estimates and do not include billions of dollars more in state and local subsidies.
  • Current demand for energy and virgin resources, many of which are nonrenewable, cannot continue without fostering ever-greater environmental and economic degradation.
  • Resource-efficient recycling businesses, which tend to be smaller, community-based and run by entrepreneurs, struggle against subsidized competitors.
  • More than a century of subsidies and federal favoritism has showered the energy, timber and mining industries with economic and political benefits.
  • Eliminating these subsidies is an essential step toward creating a more level playing field on which recycling can compete, while conserving resources and saving taxpayer money.

"Taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for federal programs rewarding waste and destruction of the environment, including subsidies for the timber, mining, energy and waste industries," Ralph DeGennaro, executive director of the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense said.

"The unique contribution of this report is connecting the issues of recycling, environmental protection and taxpayer reform. Welfare for Waste breaks new ground by focusing on the impact of federal taxpayer subsidies on recycling. Groups endorsing the report expand the coalition put together by Green Scissors to cut waste in the federal budget," Friends of the Earth spokesperson Erich Pica said.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network, which is leading the national project, advocates setting new public policy at the federal level to conserve resources. Other national organizations endorsing the report include Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace USA, Rainforest Action Network, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Coop America, Mineral Policy Center, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, American Lands, Rainforest Relief, Container Recycling Institute, Redefining Progress and Resource Conservation Alliance.

  The report is available for free on the internet at www.grrn.org/test/w4w.html, or in printed form for $10.00 (including shipping and handling) from the GrassRoots Recycling Network, P.O. Box 49283, Athens, GA 30604-9283