Pennsylvania governor passes advanced recycling legislation
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Pennsylvania governor passes advanced recycling legislation

The state’s House Bill 1808 seeks to ensure postuse plastics are not misclassified as solid waste.

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November 30, 2020

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill to support advanced recycling of plastic scrap in the state. He signed House Bill 1808 into law, which requires the conversion of postuse polymers through advanced recycling to comply with applicable Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations and revises applicable definitions.

“Addressing climate change is one of the most important issues that we face, and that is why my administration has made it a top priority to support comprehensive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste, including the growing challenge of reducing plastic waste in landfills,” Wolf says. “This measure offers an innovative way to manage hard-to-recycle plastics, which not only will reduce waste but also support an emerging recycling industry.”

According to the language in the bill, the legislation seeks to ensure postuse plastics “are not misclassified as solid waste.”

“Recycling and recovery technologies represent an emerging market and provide the ability to remove plastics from the waste stream by converting them into valuable feedstock for new materials,” the legislation states. “Treating postuse plastics as raw materials for ‘manufacturing’ and not ‘waste’ will remove the barriers of misclassifying this emerging industry and promote continued innovation and investment.

“The current law does not clearly classify these new technologies as manufacturing and this legislation will provide regulatory certainty as the postuse plastics and recycling industry grows. … With China’s recent rejection of U.S. waste plastics, it is critically important that we advance policies and a regulatory framework that will allow these technologies to flourish.”

The legislation was introduced by Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan E. Mackenzie in August 2019.

“Advanced recycling presents an emerging market in the United States, and we have seen these facilities successfully deployed at a commercial scale in other states over the last seven years,” Mackenzie says. “They are having a tremendous impact in their communities, reducing waste in the surrounding regions while demonstrating a business model that does more with less. I look forward to welcoming this industry to our state and seeing Pennsylvania’s economy and environment benefit.”

The Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council as well as the Washington-based American Chemistry Council (ACC) have expressed their support of the legislation.

“These technologies extend the product life cycle and are providing a free-market solution to help address a global and domestic challenge of waste management,” says Abby Foster, president of the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council. “Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a strong and growing petrochemical and plastics market, and potentially now an advanced recycling market to make a truly circular economy for plastics here in the commonwealth.”

"The American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division is pleased to see bipartisan policy supporting advanced recycling become law in Pennsylvania, and we thank Representative Mackenzie for sponsoring this important legislation and Governor Wolf for signing it into law," adds Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics for the ACC. "HB 1808 helps provide regulatory certainty for advanced plastics recycling processes and correctly defines these technologies as manufacturing. It will help Pennsylvania attract new recycling businesses and support job creation while keeping more plastic out of landfills and, instead, turning them into valuable new materials and products. Advanced recycling refers to several different technologies that convert postuse plastics into their original chemical building blocks to produce new plastics, waxes and other products. 

"Pennsylvania is the ninth state to pass such legislation since 2017," he continues. "It joins Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois and Ohio in recognizing that postuse plastics are not waste but a valuable material for manufacturing. Not only does this law recognize that innovative advanced recycling technologies will help us achieve a more circular economy for plastics, it could also help states and communities meet their recycling or zero waste goals. We look forward to seeing new states pass similar legislation in 2021."