A new report says chemical recycling is not a viable solution to plastic pollution problems.
Beyond Plastics and the International Pollutants Elimination Network, two groups that have been critical of the plastics industry, unveiled the report on Oct. 31.
"Our research shows that chemical recycling is more of a marketing and lobbying tactic by the petrochemical industry than an actual solution to the problem of plastic waste," Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics, said in a news conference.
"The plastics industry was launched in lobbying the marketing campaign promoting what it calls advanced recycling. It is not advanced, and it is not recycling," she said.
In her remarks, she emphasized that chemical recycling is not new, and the report hammered home the point by recruiting Lew Freeman, a former vice president at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., now called the Plastics Industry Association, to write the foreword.
Freeman wrote that the plastics industry has spent 35 years promoting recycling as a solution to waste problems, and in that time, the recycling rate has increased less than 1 percent to just under 9 percent.
"It now claims that in just half that time — 17 years — the plastics industry will be able to recycle 100 percent of its waste. This report makes a compelling case for doubting the plastics industry's seriousness and ability to achieve its stated goal," he wrote.
The report notes there are now 11 chemical recycling facilities in the United States. Jennifer Congdon, deputy director of Beyond Plastics and one of the contributors to the report, said those facilities are handling an "insignificant amount of plastics waste" and that many are "struggling to create a profitable product."
"Relying on chemical recycling to process plastic waste is an unreliable and polluting approach to solve the growing problem of plastic pollution," Congdon said.
The sponsors said the report findings are well timed, as global negotiators will meet Nov. 13-19 in Nairobi, Kenya, for a new round of talks on a United Nations global plastics treaty.