Sending Office: Takano, Mark
Sent By:

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in a letter to the Department of Commerce, urging Commerce to report on their national strategy and ongoing efforts in response to the emerging recycling crisis sparked by

China’s “National Sword” policy
and compounded by forthcoming regulations to
limit global waste exports

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Commerce is required to stimulate the development of markets for recycled materials and encourage the development of new uses for these materials. With China now accepting less than one percent of
America’s recyclable goods and over 180 countries moving to increase regulations on waste exports, we must establish a national strategy that encourages recycling and fosters a robust market that can benefit from our recycled materials.

Working together, we can ensure that recycling programs across the nation are able to continue to minimize waste and preserve natural resources, while ensuring our nation benefits from the economic opportunity this crisis offers.

If you have any questions or to sign on to our letter, please contact
or by phone at x5-2305 (Takano) or
or by phone at x5-8171 (Stevens) or
or by phone at x5-6316 (Haaland).


                                            MARK TAKANO                  HALEY STEVENS                DEB HAALAND

                                            Member of Congress          Member of Congress            Member of Congress


The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.


U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20230


Dear Secretary Ross:

We are writing to express our serious concerns about the state of recycling in the United States and to better understand how the Department of Commerce is actively managing the economic and trade impacts of China’s “National Sword” policy. Since the policy
was enacted in January 2018, China has sharply reduced the import of foreign recycled materials to address national environmental concerns but also to shed the country’s reputation as the world’s recycler.

For more than three decades the United States and many other countries have relied on China to accept most of our recyclables, leading to a weak domestic recycling industry. At peak export, the United States had relied on China to accept almost 70 percent
of all U.S. recycled goods, and by 2017 China had grown to accept nearly two-thirds of all global plastic waste. Today it imports about one percent of all global recyclable plastics.

However, China’s decision offers an opportunity to create a competitive and profitable U.S. recycling industry. We should capitalize on this new market dynamic and support an industry that promotes local job creation and economic growth while averting an
environmental crisis. It is vital that we improve our recycling infrastructure to prevent the rapid decline of recycling programs across the country and reduce the amount of recyclable waste piling up in US landfills.

The Department of Commerce is already mandated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to encourage greater commercialization of proven recycling technology as well as stimulate the development of markets for recycled materials in the United
States. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office reported that Commerce was falling short of meeting its requirements under RCRA. Considering China’s “National Sword” policy, we are troubled by the lack of mention of recycling as a priority for the Department
of Commerce, which is equipped to respond to this growing threat.

The Department of Commerce must play a key role in fostering an environment that promotes and encourages recycling, while harnessing and encouraging innovative recycling technologies. Commerce can position the U.S. as a global leader by encouraging and demonstrating
our innovative and economically viable approaches to recycling and should make this a priority.

Understanding these concerns and our immediate and future needs, please provide answers to the following questions in the context of what actions have been taken directly in response to China’s “National Sword” policy:

  1. Is Commerce working with federal, state, and local stakeholders to comprehensively address the recycling crisis and develop a viable national strategy in response to China’s “National Sword” policy?
  2. Has Commerce developed a national strategy to identify new geographical locations of existing or potential markets for recycled materials as mandated under RCRA?  If not, is a plan currently being developed?
  3. Has Commerce reported on or taken steps to identify the economic and technical barriers that exist to process recycled materials in the United States, encourage greater commercialization of proven recycling technology, and develop a robust market that promotes
    the sale of recyclable waste and recycled goods?
  4. How is Commerce increasing international trade in recycled and recyclable materials as part of its general trade promotion responsibilities?

The Department of Commerce has an important role to play in developing solutions to our most pressing economic challenges, and Congress seeks assurances from the department today that it will manage this crisis as required under RCRA.


                                            MARK TAKANO                  HALEY STEVENS                DEB HAALAND

                                            Member of Congress          Member of Congress            Member of Congress

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Environment, Government, Natural Resources, Science, Technology, Trade

icon eDC logo e-Dear Colleague version 2.0
e-Dear Colleagues are intended for internal House use only.