PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


April 8, 1999

(704) 826-8116


Taxpayer Subsidies for Timber, Mining and Energy Cost $13 Billion Over 5 Years, Waste Resources and Discourage Recycling

North Carolina groups, Anson County Citizens Against Chemical Toxins in Underground Storage (CACTUS) and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) joined a new national coalition today asking Congress to end federal taxpayer subsidies that waste natural resources, damage the environment, hurt local recycling businesses and discourage recycling.

"Cutting these federal taxpayer subsidies for timber, mining and energy will save taxpayers $13 billion over the next five years and is essential to level the playing field for recycling businesses," Denise Lee, community organizer of BREDL.

Today, Anson County CACTUS and BREDL released the report titled Welfare for Waste, which was released in 23 cities across the nation.  More than 110 organizations and businesses launched a drive to cut 15 wasteful federal tax subsidies that undermine recycling.

The report is the result of a year-long research effort by the GrassRoots Recycling Network of Athens, Georgia, and Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Materials Efficiency Project and Friends of the Earth in Washington, DC.

Recycling and reuse industries generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity each year.  Jobs are lost as a result of policies favoring extractive and waste disposal industries. Recycling and reuse businesses employ many more people per ton of material processed or managed than a landfill operation. Yet, waste companies such as Allied Waste Industries, choose to build larger landfills in poor, rural communities such as Anson County. Job opportunities will be minimal and low wage.  True economic growth is discarded along with the waste. Federal spending programs, tax breaks and virgin material subsidies makes it more difficult for recyclers to cover costs and stay in business.  "As somebody who works hard every day to promote recycling, I'm outraged that my tax dollars are being thrown away to subsidize private companies that waste resources, and undermine good economic growth." Bobby Briley, Vice President, CACTUS.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network, which is leading the national project, advocates setting new public policy at the federal level to conserve resources.

"We advocate materials efficiency, a new policy for the new millennium.  It will support sustainable jobs and businesses in the United States and protect the environment," Bill Sheehan, network coordinator for the GrassRoots Recycling Network said from the organization's national headquarters in Athens, Georgia.

Major findings in the report are that:

* Recycling competes directly with virgin materials, such as timber, oil and mineral resources, and waste disposal industries on an uneven playing field.

* 15 federal taxpayer subsidies for well-financed and politically influential virgin materials cost on average $2.6 billion a year or 13 billion over 5 years. These are conservative estimates and do not include billions of dollars more in state and local subsidies.

* Current demand for energy and virgin resources, many of which are non-renewable, cannot continue without fostering ever-greater environmental and economic degradation.

* Resource-efficient recycling businesses, which tend to be smaller, community-based and run by entrepreneurs, struggle against subsidized competitors.

* More than a century of subsidies and federal favoritism has showered the energy, timber and mining industries with economic and political benefits.

* Eliminating these subsidies will not by itself revolutionize the economics of recycling and reuse, but is an essential step toward creating a more level playing field on which recycling can compete, while conserving resources and saving taxpayer money.

"Taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for federal programs rewarding waste and destruction of the environment, including subsidies for the timber, mining, energy and waste industries," Ralph DeGennaro, executive director of the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense said.

"The unique contribution of this report is connecting the issues of recycling, environmental protection and taxpayer reform. Welfare for Waste breaks new ground by focusing on the impact of federal taxpayer subsidies on recycling. Groups endorsing the report expand the coalition put together by Green Scissors to cut waste in the federal budget," Friends of the Earth spokesperson Erich Pica said.

National organizations endorsing the report include Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace USA, Rainforest Action  Network, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Coop America, Mineral Policy Center, the Institute for Local  Self Reliance, American Lands, Rainforest Relief, Container Recycling Institute, Redefining Progress and Resource Conservation Alliance.

The report is available for free on the internet at, or in printed form for $10.00 (including shipping and handling) from the GrassRoots Recycling Network, P.O. Box 49283, Athens, GA  30604-9283.