UPDATED OCT. 2: The American Chemistry Council is coming out in support of fees on packaging and trash disposal to help pay for more recycling, and it is calling for industry financing to address harder-to-recycle plastic packaging formats like tubes and pouches.
The Washington-based trade association Oct. 1 released what it's calling a "Roadmap to Reuse" strategy that pushes a national recycling framework for standardizing programs in the United States and giving more support for recycled content.
A senior ACC official described the new policy as endorsing extended producer responsibility, which at its most basic level has industry pay fees to help to fund recycling programs, often through privately run third-party groups.
"That is essentially the bottom line when you boil it down, we're coming out in support of packaging fees, which are an EPR system," said Keith Christman, ACC's managing director of plastics markets. "This is us coming out and saying what we're for as far as policies."
The new policy framework does not include details on those fees, however. It's part of an initiative, "From Single-Use to Reuse," that ACC has unveiled to try to spell out how it will hit public targets it first set in 2018.
At that time, ACC set targets of having 100 percent of plastic packaging recyclable or recoverable in the U.S. by 2030, and then having all actually be reused, recycled or recovered by 2040.
Since those targets were announced in 2018, however, the political landscape around plastics recycling has changed dramatically.
Multiple bills have since been introduced in Congress, and lawmakers in Washington and in statehouses have increasingly been debating — and sometimes passing — plastic product bans, EPR and laws aimed at shoring up weak recycling systems.
Specifically, ACC's new plan endorses "multimaterial packaging fees" to support collection and sortation infrastructure and pay-as-you-throw fees on garbage disposal "to equalize the cost of recycling with that of disposal."
Other industry groups like the Consumer Brands Association and the Recycling Partnership, which ACC pointed to, have recently endorsed similar ideas.
The latter group released its own policy statement Sept. 29 that supported packaging fees, saying that governments in the U.S. currently spend $4 billion a year on recycling and that the system needs more resources.
Skeptics of recycling as a full solution point to EPA figures that show only 13 percent of plastic packaging and containers are currently recycled. But ACC and other industry groups say it's important to improve recycling infrastructure.
More specific to plastics, ACC says its policy framework also supports "develop[ing] plastics value chain financing for collecting and sorting flexibles, films, foams and plastics packaging formats such as tubes, lids, cups, pouches and small formats."