Stimulus Funding for City Waste Initiatives, DC and NY Inch Toward Zero Waste Goals

The week of Earth Day saw news on zero waste plans, organics program expansions, reuse pilots and more.

Since President Joe Biden last month signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act, the stimulus package with $350 billion for state and local governments, some municipalities have detailed how they plan to distribute the funds and others are still working through how the cash fits into their budgets.

Compared to last year’s federal relief known as CARES, the American Rescue Plan is considered to allow more flexible spending by states and localities. Municipalities have new ideas to use federal funds to enable everything from fare-free transit to a guaranteed basic income program.

Given that range, American Rescue Plan funds could also support some waste-related initiatives, particularly considering that many local solid waste departments struggled with staffing and other resources during the pandemic.

“We’re already seeing this money begin to have an impact on solid waste operations,” said Conor Riffle, vice president of Smart Cities at waste software company Rubicon. From Rubicon’s perspective pitching municipalities on its own waste services digitization and optimization technologies, Riffle anecdotally said he’s seen municipalities accelerate procurement conversations because of the changing budget situation.

“They’re able to actually get their priorities prioritized, whereas six months ago those priorities were on the chopping block.”

According to Riffle, American Rescue Plan funds are having an impact on waste operations in two broad ways. The first is that funds are being directly allocated to proactive waste-related initiatives. “Resilience is a word that a lot of municipalities have been kicking around for years and the pandemic really made clear just how important resiliency is for American cities.”

Secondly and more indirectly, if stimulus funds are put toward initiatives outside of waste, that can free up space in the existing budget.

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