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EPA Should Encourage, Not Discourage, The Acceleration of Advanced Recycling

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 16, 2021) – America’s plastic makers today submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the Agency’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on advanced recycling.

Regulating advanced recycling1 as incineration would contradict the very definition and established EPA interpretations of “incineration,” and it would hinder progress towards increasing plastics recycling and achieving a circular economy.

Joshua Baca, American Chemistry Council’s Vice President of PlasticsAdvanced recycling is critical to realizing sustainability and recycling goals, including the EPA’s goal of recycling 50% of post-use materials by 2030 and America’s plastic makers’ goal of reusing, recycling, or recovering all U.S. plastic packaging by 2040. EPA’s National Recycling Strategy, released last month, recognizes the potential of advanced recycling technologies to transform plastic recycling rates in the U.S. Regulating these technologies as solid waste incineration would be a step backwards.Share:Businesses are already using advanced recycling to create innovative new products made with recycled plastics. A recent example is Wendy’s new drink cup. Incorrectly regulating advanced recycling as solid waste incineration would stifle similar innovations in sustainability.

Many states are already appropriately regulating these facilities as manufacturing activities, and since 2017, 14 states have reinforced this by enacting laws that ensure advanced recycling is regulated as a manufacturing process as opposed to solid waste disposal or incineration. More than $7.5 billion in advanced recycling projects have been announced or are already operating in the United States, with the potential to divert 11.7 billion pounds of waste from landfills. Regulating advanced recycling as solid waste incineration would hinder these investments and create significant uncertainty in the market.

Advanced recycling facilities do not dispose of or incinerate the used plastics they receive. Rather, these facilities convert used plastics, in the absence of oxygen, into raw materials for new products, including virgin-quality plastics for food- and pharma-contact applications.

To help implement the EPA’s National Recycling Strategy and avoid confusion around what advanced recycling is—a manufacturing process—and what it is not—solid waste disposal or incineration—Congress should enact policies that foster a modern regulatory framework for advanced recycling as outlined in our 5 Actions for Sustainable Change.

[1] Specifically pyrolysis and gasification technologies

Publication date: 14/12/2021

American Plastics Council

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31