The Association of Plastic Recyclers wants to see the definition of chemical recycling limited to circular loops that make new plastic from discarded waste polymers, a position at odds with some other industry groups.
In a policy statement released June 1, APR is pushing a narrow definition of chemical recycling, in contrast with other industry groups like the American Chemistry Council, which say broader rules will speed development of the new technologies.
The difference of opinion between the two plastics groups comes amid growing debate about how to regulate chemical recycling.
ACC, for example, organized a news conference in March to urge Congress not to restrict the technology. At the same time, ACC has led a nationwide push to pass pro-chemical recycling laws in state legislatures.
APR President and CEO Steve Alexander said his group, which primarily represents traditional mechanical recycling companies, felt that with the increasing attention it wanted to clearly state its position: It supports chemical recycling, but it should only be called recycling if it goes back into new plastics.
"If it's not back to resin, it's not recycling in our opinion — it's a conversion technology or a diversion technology," he said.
A particular concern for the recycling group is that it believes chemical recycling that uses waste plastics to make fuels or oils should not be considered recycling.
"Feedstock to fuel or energy should not be considered recycling," APR's policy statement says. "Chemical recycling should only include processes converting resin feedstock to resin."
APR sees business implications for its members, both in laws and for recycling markets.
Too much focus on chemical recycling could lead to manufacturers "disregarding" design-for-recycling guidelines for their packaging, if they feel that new technologies can solve any packaging disposal problem, Alexander said.
As well, there's a political component: ACC and other industry groups have secured legislation in 13 states that ACC says is crucial to creating a level playing field for the technology, which it calls advanced recycling.
But Alexander said APR is concerned that legislation could count turning waste plastics into fuels as recycling.
"When you look at some of the legislative activity that's out there, which allows for under the definition of some sort of recycling, to go into fuels or oils, we oppose that," he said. "We don't consider that recycling."