An Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate toxins in plastic waste is raising questions about how Washington will oversee chemical recycling, with industry saying EPA is throwing up barriers and others saying it's a welcome — if too weak — move to limit health risks.
At issue is an EPA proposal from June that would regulate pyrolysis facilities that use waste plastic to make naptha and other chemicals for transportation fuels.
The agency's plan seeks to limit carcinogenic and reproductive toxins like PFAS, heavy metals and flame retardants in the scrap plastic feedstock, with the goal of limiting pollutants in the oils and products coming out of pyrolysis facilities.
The proposal only covers plastic waste-to-fuel operations, but plastics groups fear it could set a precedent for other regulations or slow down development of advanced recycling, as the American Chemistry Council and others call chemical recycling processes.
"ACC is concerned that, despite its focus on fuels, the proposed approach could set a misguided precedent which hinders development of advanced recycling projects critical to the increased use of recycled plastics and progress towards a more circular economy," said Lee Salamone, ACC's senior director of its plastics division.
As well, Dow Chemical Co. told the agency that while it doesn't sell fuels, it had similar concerns that regulations could hinder development of advanced recycling, since pyrolysis can also be used to make chemicals for new plastics.
It said advanced recycling is critical to the industry's strategies to diversify its feedstocks and build a circular plastics economy.
"To deliver on our 2030 circular and renewable solutions commitments, advanced recycling along with the refining function, is the most efficient and economic means of activating the circular economy available to the industry today," said Kari Mavian, Dow's global director of regulatory advocacy and policy.
"Therefore, regulations adversely impacting the development of advanced recycling and the refining function will negatively impact progress in the development of the circular ecosystem and the potential to grow American manufacturing and create new jobs," Mavian said.