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Lawmakers Warn EPA of Several Risks From Chemical Recycling

July 14, 2022, 10:05 PM

More than 30 House and Senate members told the EPA on Thursday they have concerns over chemical recycling technology contributing to the climate crisis.

Chemical recycling, sometimes called advanced recycling, includes a suite of technologies that use non-mechanical processes to break down plastics.

“Chemical recycling technologies, specifically pyrolysis and gasification, are forms of incineration and do not help us achieve new source reduction,” the lawmakers told Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan in a letter. “These two processes are primarily used to produce fuels like crude oils or synthetic natural gas, and often do not result in the production of new plastic, meaning these technologies may not support the transition to a circular economy.”

Lawmakers raised concerns over the hazardous waste released by chemical recycling facilities, which have been found to emit benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylenes, and dioxins, according to the letter. Many of the toxic chemicals are linked to cancer, nervous system damage, and negative effects on reproduction and development.

The letter was led by California Reps. Jared Huffman (D) and Alan Lowenthal (D), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and was signed by other Democrats as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

EPA Action

The letter comes as the EPA considers whether to remove Clean Air Act protections from chemical recycling processes. A proposed rulemaking was published in November 2021, and it has since reviewed whether pyrolysis and gasification should continue to be regulated as “municipal waste combustion units” under Section 129 of the Clean Air Act.

The members concluded by asking the EPA to continue to regulate pyrolysis and gasification units as waste combustion units and reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

“Technologies that worsen the climate crisis, perpetuate a reliance on single-use plastics, and adversely impact vulnerable communities cannot be viewed as viable solutions moving forward,” the letter says.

The letter was endorsed by more than 45 environmental and environmental justice organizations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nyah Phengsitthy at nphengsitthy@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com