Maine classifies chemical recycling as 'processing'

  • : Petrochemicals
  • 24/03/13

Maine has classified chemical recycling as "chemical plastic processing" instead of recycling, one of the first laws of its kind.

State senator Anne Carney's (D) proposal, Legislative Document 1660, passed into law on 5 March without a signature from Governor Janet Mills. Carney introduced the legislation last year in opposition to state chemical recycling laws supported by the plastics industry that reduce government oversight.

Chemical recycling laws "allow facilities to evade the public permitting process, siting restrictions, reporting requirements, and operating conditions that apply to all solid waste facilities," Carney testified last May to Maine's Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. "LD 1660 will protect Maine from this type of harmful legislation by reinforcing Maine's solid waste hierarchy and accurately reflecting that this process and these facilities are not recycling."

Chemical recycling typically uses heat and pressure to convert waste plastics that are hard to recycle mechanically into pyrolysis oil and other raw materials that can be used to create new plastics. Chemical recycling laws categorize chemical recycling as manufacturing instead of solid waste disposal, which allows for less regulatory oversight.

A flurry of chemical recycling laws, supported by plastics industry organizations such as the American Chemistry Council (ACC), have been passed in US states. Last year, Kansas became the 24th state to pass a chemical recycling law.

The ACC said the Maine law will inhibit "innovative technologies" that could lead to an increase in types of plastic that can be recycled.

"LD 1660 contains vague language that could disincentivize investments in recycling technologies – working against much needed increases in plastics recycling, and potentially disadvantaging economic opportunities," ACC division president Ross Eisenberg told Argus.

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