Plastic scrap

Pennsylvania lawmakers consider advanced recycling legislation

The state’s House Bill 1808 aims to reclassify waste facilities to manufacturing plants to encourage investment in recycling.

November 6, 2020

A lawmaker in Pennsylvania is working to further legislation that is designed to help advanced recycling of plastic scrap. Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan E. Mackenzie introduced House Bill 1808 in August 2019 that calls for changing the regulatory classification of waste facilities to manufacturing plants as a way to encourage investment in the recycling industry.

HB 1808 would seek 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 passed in the state’s House of Representatives in July and is now being considered by the state’s Senate.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) has announced its support of HB 1808 recently in a blog on its website.

“By classifying the new plants as manufacturing and not waste facilities, the legislation will encourage investment in an industry that will help eliminate the ugly sight of plastic wrappers, shopping bags and other plastic waste from our roads, streams and fields,” the blog states. “These new businesses use a thermal decomposition process (pyrolysis) to transform the plastic waste into feedstock for new products. And this new industry that will provide family-sustaining jobs will need a workforce.”

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council also has expressed support for this bill and advancing opportunities for pyrolysis in the state.

“While this technology may be new to Pennsylvania, across the country, private companies are already manufacturing postuse plastics at a commercial scale into a versatile mix of new chemicals, feedstocks, products and more environmentally friendly transportation fuels,” says Abby Foster, president of the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council.

However, the legislation has received some pushback from groups as well. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) released a report in July that was endorsed by the Clean Air Council, PennEnvironment and Nothing Left to Waste that analyzed the processes of advanced recycling that were being promoted in HB 1808.

“The petrochemical industry has promoted the idea of recycling plastic into plastic for decades,” the GAIA report states. “However, the evidence is lacking. As of today, after decades of development, there is no public evidence that any facility in the U.S. is successfully recovering waste plastic to produce new plastic on a commercial scale. In addition, the economic outlook of the chemical recycling industry is highly uncertain and is subject to downside risks.”

“Calling a hot dog sushi doesn’t make it sushi, and calling burning plastics ‘recycling’ doesn’t make it anything other than what it is: just another way to burn fossil fuels,” says Stephanie Wein, conservation advocate at PennEnvironment. “The Ccommonwealth is about to set a horrible precedent by defining plastic combustion as recycling.”