The plastics industry is making a push in states for new laws to make it easier to build next-generation recycling plants that turn waste plastics into feedstocks and fuels, and it recently has secured victories in Iowa and Tennessee.
But the effort — designed to carve out a clearer regulatory approval path for what's called chemical recycling — is drawing opposition from environmental groups and some state legislators in Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas.
The new laws sought by plastics companies and the American Chemistry Council would regulate the plants as manufacturing operations, rather than landfills or solid waste disposal facilities, making it easier to get government approvals.
The recent action in Iowa and Tennessee follows similar successful efforts in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin.
The push in state governments is linked to the industry's broader $1 billion Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Research into chemical recycling is a key part of the initiative's attempt to find viable markets for hard-to-recycle plastics.
ACC says pyrolysis and other chemical recycling technologies will create economic opportunities.
The association said converting plastics into transportation fuels, for example, could power 98,000 cars a year in Iowa and 219,000 in Tennessee. It estimates that diverting 25 percent of Tennessee's plastic into such chemical recycling facilities could support eight factories and generate $264 million in economic output a year.
"We're pleased to see legislation that attracts new businesses and supports job creation by treating post-use plastics as raw materials for 'manufacturing' and not as 'waste,'" said Craig Cookson, senior director of recycling and recovery for Washington-based ACC, in an April 9 statement supporting Iowa and Tennessee's actions.