Plastics Recycling Industry Seeks to Separate Itself from Solid Waste Management Requirements in New Bill

January 31, 2023

The burgeoning plastics recycling industry in Indiana is seeking to convince state lawmakers to pass a bill that would identify its “advanced recycling facilities” as manufacturing facilities, a distinction that would help the industry avoid certain solid waste facility regulations it says should not apply to them.

Senate Bill 472, authored by Sens. Mark Messmer, Susan Glick, Rick Niemeyer and Blake Doriot, defines the processes that make up “advanced recycling,” like pyrolysis, gasification and other processes, in the state code.

The proposed definition also distinguishes “advanced recycling” from another, more controversial process associated with plastics recycling, burning plastics or trash for energy, and solid waste processing and recovery.

According to the testimony from the American Chemistry Council, “advanced recycling” process includes collecting plastics, then heating the plastics in the absence of oxygen until they melt and turn into a gas. The gas vapors are then cooled, condensed and turned into a liquid.

The liquid is then turned into a feedstock that is used to produce new plastic materials.

“Advanced recycling technologies hold the potential to reduce waste, extend the useful material life and create a circular economy that our society desires,” Messmer said when introducing the bill. “By using chemical processes this technology converts used plastics into base raw materials that can be repurposed for vast new opportunities.”

Messmer said advanced recycling technologies allow companies to process types of plastics that are difficult to recycle and usually end up in landfills, including polyvinyl chloride, low density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.

He said the bill would increase regulatory certainty for potential investors and would encourage the construction of facilities like the Brightmark Circularity Center in Ashley, Indiana.

Critics of advanced recycling have said its processes prolong the life of plastics and promote the continued use of fossil fuels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to regulate emissions from advanced recycling facilities that use pyrolysis and gasification under the Clean Air Act.

The bill passed the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs unanimously and will now be considered by the full Indiana Senate.

Plastics Recycling Industry Seeks to Separate Itself from Solid Waste Management Requirements in New Bill