In Rhode Island, environmental groups argued that the state should focus on reducing single-use plastics.
In a June 7 statement when the state Senate passed the legislation, the Conservation Law Foundation criticized the Senate’s action and said the technologies at issue, like pyrolysis and gasification, use high-heat processes to make waste plastic into toxic chemicals and “dirty, plastic -derived fuels.”
“While the industry claims that these materials are used to make new plastics, there is no evidence to support that claim,” said CLF Senior Attorney Kevin Budris. “Instead, these materials are burned, creating climate-damaging emissions and air pollution.”
But the ACC argues that the technology is being commercialized in some plastic-to-plastic applications and could make it possible to recycle materials that are not practical to recover today.
“By not advancing” [the legislation]Rhode Island’s lawmakers missed an opportunity to attract advanced recycling facilities that would create a cleaner environment and bring jobs to the Ocean State,” said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC. possible by innovation in advanced recycling technologies that have been optimized to remake plastics.”
Baca said opponents are misstating the question about burning plastics waste.
“Advanced recycling is not ‘burning plastics,'” he said. “The recycling process happens in a low or no oxygen environment making incineration thermodynamically impossible. Emissions are so low that facilities typically do not even meet the thresholds that would necessitate permitting by the US Environmental Protection Agency.”
Baca said the Rhode Island legislation would not have allowed the skirt environmental regulations and pointed to a study that estimated that such advanced recycling technologies could double the plastics packaging recycling rate in the US and Canada by 2030.
He said the facilities should be regulated as manufacturing plants because they’re producing plastics or other chemicals, rather than handling solid waste disposal.
But Rhode Island’s environmental regulatory agency, the DEM, said the bill would have weakened its authority and given improper exemptions for the technology.
“DEM believes that it sets a bad precedent to provide regulatory exemptions to a specific technology,” Healey said in a June 22 email.
In an April 26 letter to state legislators, DEM Acting Director Terrence Gray said the legislation would weaken licensing requirements that help facilitate public participation and debate.
“Given the environmental impacts that the processes taking place at such facilities could potentially have, DEM believes that the current licensing requirements should remain in effect for these facilities,” Gray said.
Separate from the chemical recycling provision, Rhode Island lawmakers passed a plastic bag ban June 21.
In a 60-7 vote, with eight lawmakers not voting, the state House passed the Senate’s version of a bag ban.
The legislation, if signed by Gov. Dan McKee, would prohibit retailers from giving out single-use plastic checkout bags. It would allow recyclable paper bags.