A group of senior plastics executives led by Dow Chairman and CEO Jim Fitterling drew a line in the sand for Washington March 23 — don't enact any laws or rules that impede development of chemical recycling.
Fitterling and other executives held an unusual online news conference to voice concerns over what they expect will be attempts by Democrats in Congress to restrict investment in plastics, including for chemical, or advanced, recycling.
Specifically, the group was taking aim at the reintroduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which is expected to be released March 25.
"It would prevent advanced recycling technologies that can dramatically expand the types and amounts of plastics that can be recycled," Fitterling said. "Under the Act, these facilities are subject to a pause. We need to accelerate, not pause, progress on these important recycling innovations."
The Act, however, has not yet been released and officials with the American Chemistry Council, which organized the news conference, acknowledged they had not seen final language.
But the bill last year included a provision calling for a pause on permits for major new plastics production while emissions rules are updated.
ACC officials said repeatedly at their news conference that they're concerned the act would limit advanced recycling technologies, which they say will be crucial to improving plastics recycling and meeting demands for recycled content from consumer product companies.
Executives from two chemical recycling companies, Brightmark LLC and Agilyx Inc., spoke at the news conference, along with a senior executive from packaging maker Sealed Air Corp., which is using advanced recycling.
"I've never seen such a strong demand signal from the consumer brand companies and from the product companies and from the converters in the value chain, for recycled material," said Fitterling, who is also chairman of ACC. "You've got a real market change here and that's another reason not to let this act pass."
The group of executives, which included Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, said they feared the bill would do major harm to the industry in general, if enacted.
"During one of the gravest crises our nation has faced in years, this bill would threaten lives by interrupting the manufacture of critical, life-saving materials, suffocate economic growth and threaten our environment and any hope of making progress in the fight against climate change," Jahn said. "We stand ready to work with Congress on bipartisan solutions to end waste, but they must be pragmatic."
The Break Free Act was introduced last year in Congress, but with Democrats taking control of both the White House and the Senate since then, the plastics industry seems to be is taking a much more vocal position against it.
In a statement responding to the ACC news conference, Greenpeace called advanced recycling an "unproven" technology and said the Break Free act is the "most comprehensive" legislation in Congress because it seeks to reduce unnecessary plastics, has companies pay for waste management and places a temporary moratorium on plastic plants.
"The plastics industry's desperation is showing as legislation nears to rein in its growing path of destruction," said John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace. "Executives will continue to tout unproven and unviable 'recycling' technologies because it is their only hope to appear as if they are trying to address the pollution crisis."