Reed, Euer support legislation to protect environment

Senators representing Jamestown at both the state and federal levels are co-sponsoring legislation aimed at protecting the environment.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is supporting two bipartisan bills to improve recycling and increase composting. He called it “imperative for Congress” to take action to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills by expanding the capacity for cities and towns by making these programs more effective and efficient.

The Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a pilot program aimed at improving recycling services in rural areas. Federal grants would be awarded to eligible municipalities to develop infrastructure and enhance access. The goal is to increase the national recycling rate from its current rate (32 percent) to 50 percent by 2030.

“We can’t just toss cardboard, paper, plastic, and bottles into the bin and call it a day,” Reed said. “We’ve got to invest in making recycling work better for people and communities. This is a smart step toward upgrading our recycling infrastructure and ensuring it is economically and environmentally sustainable.”

The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act would direct the EPA to collect data, prepare reports and develop best practices for recycling and composting programs. Under the bill, the agency would be required to assess composting infrastructure to identify barriers that delay the implementation of a national strategy. The bill also would require for biennial reports to track the recycling and composting rates at federal agencies.

According to Reed’s office, when organic waste rots it produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas that traps about 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. About one-quarter of municipal solid waste is food with an estimated 58 percent of methane emissions coming from that garbage. Reed said composting is “a potent tool” for waste management that could help reduce methane to combat climate change.

In Providence, Sen. Dawn Euer is co-sponsoring legislation by Cranston Sen. Joshua Miller to empower state agencies to lead by example when it comes to sustainability and renewable energy. The goal of the bill is to ensure these agencies are meeting their obligations per the 2021 Act on Climate, which was introduced by Euer.

“Building a sustainable Rhode Island requires our whole state to pull together,” Miller said.

Under the proposed legislation, all new vehicles purchased by state agencies must be electric, and at least 200 charging stations must be installed on state-owned property by 2030. This step would help meet the commitment to reduce emissions, made in the 2021 Act on Climate, by requiring that electric vehicles make up at least 45 percent of the state’s fleet. The bill provides exceptions for when electric vehicles are unavailable.

This legislation also would require the reduction of energy use at state buildings by 20 percent by 2025, 30 percent by 2040 and 40 percent by 2050, compared to a baseline from 2014. To achieve that, it would require the installation of renewable energy, such as solar panels and heat pumps, as well as energy-efficient technologies for HVAC systems and lighting, during the construction of buildings or renovations of current buildings.

The bill also would require all state buildings to have recycling and compost bins with contracts for disposal services. Cafeterias in these buildings would have to provide biodegradable utensils, plates, cups, straws and napkins by 2025.

“Rhode Islanders are concerned about the growing problems of litter, marine debris and plastic pollution,” said Jed Thorp, director of Rhode Island’s chapter of Clean Water Action. “Many of the solutions require changing habits and making more thoughtful choices. It’s important that the state lead by example and show that progress is possible.”

According to estimates from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, 32 percent of the municipal waste that ends up in the Johnston landfill could be composted. This change would lower greenhouse gases by an equivalent of removing 9,000 cars from the road per year.

The bill also would prohibit the use of state money to purchase single-use bottled water when public or potable well water is available.

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