One of the nation's most well-known environmental groups is taking aim at chemical recycling, claiming most is not actually recycling at all.
The Natural Resources Defense Council called out chemical recycling, sometimes called advanced or molecular recycling, as instead making fuels and "releasing hazardous pollutants into communities and the environment."
"Not only are 'chemical recycling' facilities failing at safely and effectively recycling plastic waste; they are releasing harmful pollutants into vulnerable communities and the environment," said Veena Singla, senior scientist at the NRDC, in a March 7 statement.
"And the toxic trail doesn't end there. Further pollution and health harm comes from the burning of dirty fuels created in the process," Singla said.
Daniel Rosenberg is the director of federal toxics policy at NRDC. He had a straightforward description of chemical recycling from his view: greenwashing.
"'Chemical recycling' is just a greenwashing term for burning plastic and not a solution to our plastic waste problem," he said in a statement.
Of particular concern to NRDC is the amount of waste created by chemical recycling processes such as pyrolysis, which processes waste plastic at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to break them down to their molecular constituents.
There also is a social justice issue with chemical recycling, the environmental group said, as these locations are "mostly located in communities that are disproportionately low income, people of color or both."