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[GreenYes] Recycle Congress Update
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THE HILL (Washington DC)
January 24, 2001

By Noelle Straub

House staffers will soon see new recycling
bins and special blue-shirted crews to empty
them, but critics fear such efforts to
improve the House recycling program may be
little more than window dressing.

Mary Alice Baker and Calvin Durham will run
the House recycling program.
The Architect of the Capitol (AoC) is hiring
20 part-time night workers to collect
recycling materials, relieving custodial
workers of the duty. The position of
recycling program manager, which had been
vacant since 1998, and a newly created post
of recycling program assistant have been

New brochures have been printed, a list of
recycling contacts in each congressional
office established, and the new manager,
Mary Alice Baker, will hold training
seminars for them in February. House offices
will receive gray bins for trash, and
staffers will have a choice of various sizes
of blue recycling bins.

But some environmental groups and House
Democrats, who denounced the program last
fall as poorly managed, say such efforts may
not be drastic enough. One of the most
outspoken critics, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-
Texas), said the AoC printed brochures and
dispensed new bins in the past, but called
such measures cosmetic.

"You could turn the recycling program over
to Austin schoolchildren and they would do a
better job with it," Doggett said. "I've had
so many excuses [from the AoC] that, until
it's reflected in pounds recycled, I won't
believe that anything has changed."

Another leading recycling proponent, Rep.
Sam Farr (D-Calif.), and staff from the
House Administration and Legislative Branch
Appropriations committees met with House
Superintendent Bob Miley and members of the
AoC recycling team in December, according to
Rochelle Dornatt, Farr's chief of staff.

"After serious pressure the AoC and
superintendent have started to respond in a
positive way," Dornatt said. "We're
cautiously optimistic. These are good
beginning steps. If they don't work we'll be
back to putting the pressure on."

Dornatt also said Farr has had doubts about
numbers the AoC has reported on the tonnage
and proceeds generated from the recycling
program and will continue to monitor its

"We want to make sure the numbers and
revenue they present to us are real,"
Dornatt said.

Sally Guardia, who previously managed
hazardous waste on the Hill and now will
oversee Hill-wide recycling activities, said
the House recycled 35.7 percent of its total
waste in the first six months of 2000.

But 71 percent of the paper recycled was
"contaminated," meaning in bales containing
10 percent or more non-paper. The vendor
separates such bales and recycles the paper,
Guardia explained, but doesn't have to pay
the government for it.

In fiscal year 2000, Guardia said Paper
Stock Dealers paid $24,410 for materials
from the House buildings. The money goes to
the Treasury, not Congress. Bruce Milhans,
AoC spokesman, said although contaminated
bales make no money for the Treasury, they
avoid the $77 per ton landfill fee that
would be charged if sent as trash.

Controversy over the program peaked last
fall when a coalition of four environmental
groups launched an ad campaign pressing
Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) and other
members to improve the House recycling

A union representing AoC employees also
charged that the AoC was not complying with
Occupational Safety and Health
Administration standards because workers did
not have proper equipment when disposing of
hazardous materials.

Lance King, spokesman for the GrassRoots
Recycling Network, said he was pleased to
hear the AoC hired a new coordinator with
recycling experience, but said it was a
modest first step and called for the program
to become mandatory.

Baker was previously the recycling
coordinator for the city of Pasadena,
Calif., and the solid waste program
specialist for Renton, Wash. She has a
master's degree in environmental management
and policy.

Pat Dollar, the last recycling program
manager, was fired from the AoC in 1998
after disagreeing with superiors on the
factual content of a public letter. Miley
said the position went unfilled since then
because of the competitive job market, so
the AoC expanded the job responsibilities
and raised the pay grade.

Miley said the 20 new part-time workers will
be offset by cuts in the night labor and
custodial crew achieved through attrition,
not layoffs.


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