A group of Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Cory Booker and California Reps. Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal, have written to the Environmental Protection Agency raising concerns about the climate and environmental justice impact of chemical recycling.
The July 14 letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan focused on what it said are hazardous waste and greenhouse gas emissions from chemical recycling of plastics, and it asked the agency to continue to regulate the processes as waste combustion.
The letter comes as EPA has opened a rule-making asking how it should regulate some chemical recycling technologies, including pyrolysis and gasification.
The lawmakers said they were "disappointed to see EPA include chemical recycling in Part One of the National Recycling Strategy."
But a plastics industry group took issue with the characterization in the lawmakers' letter, saying that EPA is correct to include advanced recycling, as some in the industry call the technology, in its recycling strategies.
"One thing is abundantly clear: Advanced recycling is not incineration," said Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association. "To encourage the EPA to treat it as such just doesn't make sense. We were encouraged to see the EPA include advanced recycling in their National Recycling Strategy and continue to support it being an important component in our nation's efforts to recycle more material."
The industry's position does have support from some members of Congress.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., wrote the agency in December urging EPA to regulate chemical recycling as a manufacturing process, not as incineration or waste processing.
"These technologies can further EPA's effort to build a circular economy by reducing material use, increasing the number of plastics that can be recycled and recapturing resources to create new products, rather than relying on more fossil fuels," Peters wrote.