The plastics industry's push for chemical recycling legislation in states scored wins in recent weeks, with three more states passing laws the industry says will speed up investment in the new technologies.
But the effort is also meeting resistance in some capitols, including in Michigan and the Northeast, where lawmakers see it as a risky move that means less regulation for unproven technologies.
Since mid-March, Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky have all passed laws that change how chemical recycling is regulated, adopting an approach from the American Chemistry Council that says they are manufacturing plants rather than traditional solid waste operations.
It's been a major political priority for ACC. In the last five years, 18 states have passed similar laws.
The plastics industry and supportive legislators say the new laws provide regulatory certainty that can boost recycling in their states and bring investment in facilities to process harder-to-recycle plastics.
Prapti Muhuri, manager of recycling and recovery at ACC's plastics division, told Michigan lawmakers in a recent hearing that less than 10 percent of plastics are recycled.
"Right now in the U.S., end markets aren't great for those difficult-to-recycle materials," she said, such as flexible pouches, tubes and foams that traditional mechanical recycling operations, focused on bottles, struggle with.
But opponents see the new laws as weakening regulations, and they say that so far at least, chemical recycling has mostly been used to make fuels and not turn waste plastic back into new plastic.