The American Chemistry Council is getting ready to release a "much more robust" federal policy plan for plastic waste, including seeing that recycled content and chemical recycling are a key part of any new framework that comes out of Washington.
The head of ACC's plastics division, Joshua Baca, disclosed the plan at a March 16 presentation for the Plastics News Executive Forum.
The upcoming ACC proposal comes as interest in plastic waste remains strong in Washington. Plastics restrictions were part of a large climate plan congressional Democrats unveiled in early March. As well, an updated version of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is expected to be introduced in coming days.
While those proposals largely come from Democrats and include major provisions industry opposes, Baca told an audience at the online Executive Forum that there is bipartisan interest around plastic waste in Congress.
There are strong opportunities for the industry within the Biden administration's climate and infrastructure priorities, he said.
"Our agendas and our priorities really aren't that far off, whether it's infrastructure or climate or plastic waste," Baca said. "America's plastics makers are ready to advance key aspects of [Biden's] agenda."
For ACC, Baca said how the government regulates chemical recycling, or advanced recycling as the industry calls it, will be a key priority for the plastics industry.
The group has been able to pass legislation in 10 states it says will support investment in advanced recycling and sees it as very important that federal policy also recognize its role.
Baca said advanced recycling technologies will be crucial to meeting the goals of consumer product companies that want to use significantly more recycled plastic in their products, and he linked the two topics in any federal policy.
"We think that having pragmatic, solutions-based recycled content standards will be really critical," he said. "And to do that, we're going to need to continue to invest in R&D and ensure that advanced recycling is accepted as part of the solution going forward."
The industry wants "a framework that accepts advanced recycling as a key and a centerpiece of solving the plastic waste challenges," said Baca, who is vice president of plastics at the Washington-based ACC.
But advanced recycled also has its opponents.
A coalition of environmental groups in February told the Biden administration it opposed chemical recycling receiving any direct funding or loan guarantees in federal legislation, saying the technology is polluting and ineffective.
Broadly speaking, Baca said he sees such recycling technologies as part of a major shift for the industry.
"We're really talking about creating almost an entirely new industry that remanufactures used plastic and turns it into new products or other materials," he said. "That's a great opportunity that reduces our reliance on virgin materials. It limits our … having to extract natural resources from the environment."
In an interview after his presentation, Baca did not reveal details of the new policies but said ACC was working with members of Congress on legislation.
The detailed legislation would build on a general framework ACC released in 2020, which included backing packaging fees to help fund recycling as well as continued support for mechanical recycling.
"We are close to having a much more robust and highly defined plastic framework for the federal level," Baca said. "There are a ton of champions for these types of issues on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle."
He also told the forum that ACC supports developing a global agreement on plastics that United Nations member countries are starting to negotiate.
In an interview, he said support for a plastics treaty is a new policy position from two global industry groups, the International Council of Chemical Associations and the World Plastics Council, and that ACC supports that position.