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Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, happy Earth Week.
I rise today, along with a couple of my colleagues--one from West Virginia and another from Arkansas--to speak on the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act of 2023 and on the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act, which is bipartisan legislation that would improve our Nation's recycling and composting systems.
As a number of our colleagues know, my wife and I are both avid recyclers and composters and have been for some time. I have long believed in environmental stewardship. That is the way my parents raised my sister and me, and I suspect it is the way a lot of parents of Members of this body raised their sons and daughters. They raised us to leave behind a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations, and that is a belief I know is shared not just by elected officials here in Washington but by many people across this country.
I am also a strong believer that bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions. Whenever possible, we ought to work to find common ground and put forward bipartisan solutions that can stand the test of time. To that end, I am pleased to have found great partners--not just good partners but great partners--in developing these bipartisan recycling bills: Senator Capito, our ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, with whom I am privileged to serve and to chair, along with Senator John Boozman, cochair of the Senate's Recycling Caucus, our colleague from Arkansas. All three of us recognize that we have to do our part to continue to improve our Nation's recycling and composting efforts. In doing so, it not only benefits our environment but also creates economic opportunity and jobs--a lot of jobs.
The legislation we are here to discuss today would address several of the challenges that America's recycling efforts currently face and what we might do about them. One of these challenges is the availability of good data.
In November of 2021, with input from many stakeholders, the Environmental Protection Agency released its first-ever national recycling strategy. When that strategy was released, I was delighted to learn that many of the comments I had submitted to the EPA on behalf of our committee had been incorporated into the final version. It was a happy day when we learned that. This document offered a transformative vision for strengthening our Nation's waste management efforts. It also highlighted the need for greater standardization around data collection.
To address this challenge around data collection, Senator Boozman and I, along with our staffs, developed the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act. Our bill would improve the EPA's ability to gather data on our Nation's recycling systems and explore opportunities for implementing a national composting strategy.
The EPA has also set a goal of increasing the U.S. recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030. With a current recycling rate of only 32 percent, it is clear we have a long way to go. That is why we must also focus on increasing access to recycling opportunities throughout our Nation--not just in urban areas or suburban areas but in rural areas as well. Many Americans in disadvantaged communities want to recycle and compost, too, but they are unable to do so because they, in many cases, live in communities that lack curbside pickup, that lack bottle return, and that lack other necessary recycling infrastructure.
Senator Capito's Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act of 2023 would address this challenge by creating a pilot program with EPA to help expand recycling services in underserved areas. The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act that she has written would bring many communities, including those in rural areas, into the recycling world while also better protecting our environment.
I commend Senator Capito for her work and her leadership in developing this legislation. I also want to continue working with her to ensure that her bill helps to jump-start recycling in communities with the greatest need, especially in disadvantaged and historically underserved communities.
Both of the bills that I have referred to from members of our committee are a result of a true collaboration, and they reflect a substantial amount of bipartisan effort dedicated to exploring and addressing our Nation's recycling and composting challenges.
The adoption of these bills this week is fitting and timely, as Saturday marks the 53rd anniversary of the very first Earth Day. This day is personal to me. Some 53 years ago this Saturday, I stood side by side with tens of thousands of people in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. I was a naval flight officer. I had completed my training and was about to deploy out of Moffett Field, CA, to head for Southeast Asia, but I had an opportunity to join tens of thousands of people in Golden Gate Park that day to celebrate our country's first-ever Earth Day.
That same year, Democrats and Republicans worked together with then- President Richard Nixon to create a Federal Agency dedicated to protecting our environment. The name of that Agency? The Environmental Protection Agency.
Decades later, I can still vividly remember--I can; I can close my eyes and remember it now--that first Earth Day and the urgency we felt to save our planet. Today, a younger generation also shares that sense of urgency.
While I believe we ought to live every day like it is Earth Day, on April 22 of each year, I especially welcome the opportunity to reflect and give thanks for all of the incredible natural resources and natural beauty that God has given us on this planet of ours.
Earth Day is also a time for all of us to reflect on our actions individually and as a whole, to think about what more we can do and should be doing to protect our planet and its inhabitants. Like many people, I try to live my life by the golden rule of always treating people the way I want to be treated. I also believe that principle extends to the way we treat and care for our planet and those with whom we share it.
A couple of years ago--and some of my colleagues may remember--we had a visitor on the other side of the Capitol, in the House Chamber. He was a fellow from France named Macron, the Prime Minister of France. He came to address a joint session of Congress that day, and he did a great job. He was very well received, I think, by everybody.
On that day, he spoke of the importance of protecting our environment from the threats of climate change, hazardous waste, and toxic pollution. At the end of his speech, he said something I will never forget. He was talking about our planet, and these were his words:
There is no planet B. There is no planet B. This is the only one we are going to have.
I sat there that day, thinking, boy, he has gotten it right; there is no planet B. That means we only have one chance to get it right when it comes to protecting and caring for this planet of ours.
As I said earlier, I am committed to leaving behind a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations. I welcome all of our colleagues to join Senator Capito and myself in that effort. Fortunately, we have made remarkable progress over the past five decades following that very first Earth Day. From enacting comprehensive laws to protect our environment and support good-paying, clean energy jobs to ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and phasing down the use of superpolluting chemicals like HFCs, which are 1,000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, there is much to be proud of. Still, our work is not finished. We have a long way to go. I think it was Robert Frost who said we have miles to go before we sleep--miles to go before we sleep.
So, today, we celebrate the opportunity to build on this progress and leave behind a livable planet with our bipartisan recycling legislation. We also acknowledge that there is more to be done. In the spirit of Earth Day, I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and keep marching forward in my effort to do the right thing by our planet and the people who call it home just as I did some 53 years ago this Saturday. I invite Americans from all walks of life to join the Senator from West Virginia, Senator Capito; Senator Boozman from Arkansas; and myself in this effort. It is the right thing to do, and it will make you feel good all over. I promise.
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