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Washington, D.C., October 25, 1973.
Chairman, Committee on Public Works,
U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.

DEAR JENNINGS: For almost a decade, the Committee on Public Works has been writing legislation designed to improve the efficiency of materials disposal. Through the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 and its amendment, the Resource Recovery Act of 1970, Federallysupported studies have generated a greatly improved understanding of the problems and opportunities associated with solid waste recycling. Federal guidelines have been developed to aid State and local authorities in developing solid waste management programs. Federal financial support has greatly strengthened State planning and regulatory activities. And demonstration projects are providing operating proof of recycling technology. In addition, Federally-supported urban planning projects have greatly aided major cities in their struggles with growing volumes of trash and garbage.

The Committee is now preparing to reconsider the provisions of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended, in light of the insight we have gained from the reports generated under that legislation. To broaden our approach beyond solid waste management and resource recovery, we must seek to integrate future solid waste management programs with efforts relative to resource conservation, materials flow through the economy, and questions concerning the future quality of life to which our people aspire.

The National Materials Policy Act of 1970 created the National Commission on Materials Policy to study materials supply and usage and other factors, including environmental impacts from extraction, processing, use, and disposal, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning materials policy needs for the rest of this century. The Commission transmitted its report on June 27, 1973.

The report by the National Commission on Materials Policy, various studies commissioned by the Commission to aid it in its deliberations, and reports mandated by the Resource Recovery Act amendments to the Solid Waste Disposal Act provide a wealth of factual information and a number of policy alternatives for Committee consideration.

To extend the scope of the Committee's inquiry and to increase the range of potential policy options, the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution asked the Congressional Research Service to carry out a few supplementary studies designed (1) to identify the basis on which conflicting projections of mineral resources rest, (2) to describe the economic forces affecting materials flow and recycling, (3) to identify the factors affecting durability of mechanical consumer products, and (4) to review the major recent reports presently available relating to materials policy.

Three of the four studies were carried out by consultants to the CRS's Environmental Policy Division. The review

of materials policy reports was prepared by Dr. Franklin P. Huddle, Senior Specialist in Science and Technology. The organization of the four reports and preparation of explanatory notes were handled by David E. Gushee, Analyst in Environmental Policy.

The Subcommittee feels that these four studies and the light they shed on the issues involved in resource conservation and solid waste management will be of great utility to both the Committee and its witnesses in hearings on the Solid Waste Disposal Act. To assure the general availability of this important background information, I request that it be published as a committee print. Respectfully,

EDMUND S. MUSKIE, Chairman, Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution.


The Committee's first major legislative enactment in the solid waste area was the Solid Waste Disposal Act, enacted in 1965 as Title II of P.L. 89-272. The purpose of the Act at that time was seen to be to "mobilize resources to attack current solid waste problems and . . initiate a longer range program of research and development directed toward discovery and application of new and improved methods of solid waste disposal."


By 1970, the problem of solid waste disposal was being modified to include recovery of useful materials and energy and to include measures designed to reduce the amount of solid waste generated. To focus attention on this broadening of scope, the 1970 amendments (P.L. 91-512) were labeled "Resource Recovery Act of 1970." They included financial aid for projects designed to demonstrate recycling technology and to study the social, technical, and economic factors affecting recycling.

The Committee recognized at that time that attempts to recover resources from solid wastes and attempts to reduce the total amount of solid waste generated would reverberate throughout the economy and have additional effects elsewhere. In preparation for a still broader approach, therefore, Title II of P.L. 91-512 created the National Commission on Materials Policy to study the impact of materials activities on the environment, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning materials policy needs. The Commission submitted its report on June 27, 1973.

The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has not only come forth with the series of reports on solid waste disposal and recycling required by the Resource Recovery Act, but has also concluded that, from the solid waste management point of view, the Federal role has largely been achieved and further progress should now be carried out at the State and local levels.


However, implementation of the Resource Recovery Act has neither increased recycling nor reduced flow of solid wastes. Oversight hearings held by the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution late in the 92nd Congress and other investigations by the Subcommittee staff indicate that major changes in the current solid waste program appear to be necessary if the Federal programs dealing with the solid waste management problem are to have any degree of success. The hearings and investigations indicate the following:

(1) The mandate of the 1970 Resource Recovery Act that Federal policy change direction from emphasizing disposal to emphasizing recycling and resource recovery has been almost entirely ignored in implementation of the act.

1 U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News, 89th Congress, First Session, 1965, page 3632.

2 Summary of Legislative Activities and Accomplishments of the Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate for the 92nd Congress, Serial No. 92-28, Dec. 12, 1972, page 58.

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