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Advanced Recycling Is Not Waste Incineration and Is Essential to a Circular Economy for Plastics

Mischaracterization of Advanced Recycling Slows Progress

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Matthew Kastner
CONTACT US

WASHINGTON, DC (May 3, 2022) — On Friday Members of Congress sent a letter to the House Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies requesting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate advanced recycling technologies as municipal waste combustion units under the Clean Air Act. The following statement may be attributed to Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Advanced recycling refers to a set of game-changing technologies that enable a circular economy by transforming used plastics into high quality new plastics. Characterizing advanced recycling as ”waste combustion” or “burning plastics” is scientifically inaccurate and distracts from the real and significant progress being made.

“The seven commercial-scale advanced recycling facilities, plus those leveraging existing chemical manufacturing infrastructure to make virgin-quality plastic from used plastics in the U.S., are just the beginning of a massive wave of new projects. Since 2017, $7.5 billion in investments have been announced across more than 70 projects capable of diverting 17.5 billion pounds of waste from landfills.

“A recent independent study found advanced recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions 43% relative to waste-to-energy incineration of plastic films made from virgin-resources. In other words, advanced recycling helps reduce plastic waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Another study found benchmarked air emissions from an average-sized advanced recycling facility were often on par with those from common well-regulated facilities such as hospitals and universities, and often too low to trigger key EPA permitting thresholds.

“Regulating advanced recycling as solid waste incineration would be inconsistent with Clean Air Act legal criteria and the 18 states that have passed laws appropriately regulating these facilities as manufacturing operations. Furthermore, it would undermine EPA’s National Recycling Goal to increase the U.S. recycling rate to 50% by 2030. America’s plastic makers will rely on advanced recycling to help EPA meet its goal.

“From Wendy’s to Warby Parker, advanced recycling is being used to make plastic consumer products from the hard-to-recycle plastics mechanical recycling cannot process. We urge lawmakers and the EPA to follow the science and reject the false claims that advanced recycling is “waste combustion,” and we invite them to visit an advanced recycling facility to get the facts in person.”

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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