While 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic, it was also historic in many positive ways for the recycling industry. First and foremost, due the Coronavirus outbreak, the federal government and states across the country, officially recognized the industry as essential. It marked one of the most important victories in the history of the industry. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) through its outreach efforts to the federal government and states helped ensure a designation that kept recycling companies in operation. Heading into 2021, with coronavirus cases once again on the rise, ISRI is maintaining this as a priority issue already having reached out to governors across the country and President-Elect Joe Biden.

Beyond the essential designation there were a number of other important legislative, regulatory, and industry achievements in 2020:

  • Following a hard-fought battle over excessive demurrage charges and inconsistent rail service, ISRI won a major victory towards improving the nation’s rail network for shippers and railroads alike. In a series of decisions issued in May, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) rebuked the railroads for unreasonable practices combined with non-transparent, inaccurate billing, and an unfair dispute resolution process. The decisions came after many years of ISRI engagement that included public comments, testimony, and outreach on Capitol Hill.
  • Using language provide by ISRI, Congress for the first time is set to provide clear definitions of recycling that differentiate recycling from disposal and recyclables from waste in federal legislation that will soon be proposed.
  • We developed guidance for recyclers on how to keep safe while operating during the Pandemic, along with state and local dashboards that we continue to update regularly with State & Local policy and economic resources to support you during these challenges times.
    ISRI announced the creation of a recyclability protocol and certification system for paper-based packaging products entering into the recycling stream. This first of a kind protocol will assist packaging manufacturers in understanding what is and what is not recyclable. Once done, this will be extended to other commodities.
  • After years of pressure from ISRI, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment published updated guidelines for the implementation of Brass, Copper and Aluminum “Recycled Raw Materials” standards and “Recycled Steel Raw Materials” standards, no longer classifying them as solid waste.
  • The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), with the help of ISRI, adopted lugger truck container securement standards.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its hours-of-service final rule, that would increase route optimization, increase flexibility in pickups and deliveries, and maintain safety for drivers. This rule mirrored comments provide by ISRI.
  • As an aid to helping scrap recycling facilities develop strategies for reducing the risks of fire, ISRI released a new electronic publication, Creating a Fire Prevention and Management Plan. The book was developed by fire science, insurance, and scrap recycling industry professionals and is meant to help recyclers better understand and mitigate potential risks before they become bigger problems. With the help of an OSHA grant ISRI obtained earlier this year, we will be providing additional resources in 2021 to help members address fire risks throughout your operations.
  • Recognizing the challenge companies across the industry are facing with hiring and retaining workers, ISRI developed a workforce development kit containing a selection of marketing pieces members can use to attract qualified applicants. Most of the marketing pieces are customizable and can include your company’s logo, website, phone number, and other needed information.
  • In Maine, New Jersey, and other states, ISRI and its chapters fought back draconian legislation that would impose harmful regulations on the industry.

ISRI will continue build on these achievements in 2021. Members and other industry stakeholders can look forward to the trade association’s advocacy agenda to be release at the end of January 2021.