Congress targets plastics emissions, aims to boost reusable packaging – USA

Congress targets plastics emissions, aims to boost reusable packaging – USA

Posted on December 9, 2022 by DrRossH in Plastic Recycling, Plastic Waste News



Some congressional Democrats are making a new push to limit permits for plastic factory construction, saying it’s needed to protect vulnerable communities, and pairing it with national targets on cutting single-use plastics and increasing reusable packaging.

The Protecting Communities From Plastics Act, unveiled Dec. 1, would require the Environmental Protection Agency to write detailed new factory emissions and pollution standards, as well as set targets on cutting single-use plastics at least 25 percent and switching 30 percent of packaging to reusable formats by 2032.

“Plastic pollution isn’t just a problem for our oceans and climate; it’s a massive environmental injustice driven by the fossil fuel sector,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. “Fence-line communities are overburdened with plastics’ toxic emissions. We have got to start putting people over Big Oil’s plastic profits.”

Plastics industry groups decried the legislation, which builds on permit pause language in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The new bill is being led by Huffman, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and retiring Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif.

The American Chemistry Council said the legislation would “cripple” the plastics industry.

“The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act is a raw deal for America that would stall the acceleration of a circular economy for plastics currently underway,” said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC. “American jobs would be lost, billions of dollars of investments in new technology would be jeopardized and the climate crisis would worsen as a switch to materials with a higher carbon footprint ensues.”

Baca said Congress should instead pursue legislation along the lines of five-point proposal from ACC, which includes 30 percent recycled content in U.S. plastic packaging by 2030, an extended producer responsibility system and a regulatory system that scales up both chemical and mechanical recycling.

As well, the Plastics Industry Association said the proposal would push jobs outside the United States and “destroy” the industry.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised by the continued hyperbole contained in this legislation, which only causes divisiveness in the efforts to come to real solutions to the environmental challenges we face,” said Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the association. “In their rush to demagogue, the authors of this bill fail to recognize that plastic is essential to society.”

30 percent reusable by 2032

The authors of the bill, however, said it’s needed to deal with a flood of single-use plastics and curb growing plastic production that’s both a harm to communities living near those factories and to efforts to control climate change.

“As we transition to clean and renewable energy, fossil-based plastic production threatens to derail our efforts to address the climate crisis,” said Booker. “In fence-line communities that are near plastic production plants, residents suffer from the release of harmful pollutants and increased rates of debilitating health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.”

The legislation includes detailed language on new emissions standards for plastics plants, directing EPA to write new regulations within three years.

It also tells EPA to work with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health to write a report within 18 months on the industry’s expansion, the environmental impacts of extracting and refining fossil fuels for feedstocks and to develop recommendations on better emissions control technology, among other steps.

Merkley, who chairs a Senate subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety, said the legislation is needed because plastic particles are showing up in people’s bloodstreams and in remote spots like arctic snowcaps.

“Many of us know and live by the three R’s — reduce, reuse, and recycle — in the hope that as long as we put our plastic items into blue bins, we’ll protect our environment and our communities,” Merkley said. “Unfortunately, when it comes to plastics, the three B’s are much more common — plastic is buried, burned, or borne out to sea — which means dangerous chemicals are seeping into our air, water and soil, threatening Americans’ health everywhere and disproportionately in communities of color and low-income communities.”

The bill, for example, would prohibit permits for new or expanded facilities within five miles of schools, day care centers, hospitals, parks or places of worship.

The legislation also would tell EPA to set targets for reducing single-use plastics and shifting more packaging to refillable and reusable formats.

It directs EPA to, by 2025, present baseline data on single-use plastics and, by 2027, develop source reduction targets of at least 25 percent, to be implemented by 2032.

For national reuse and refillable packaging targets, it directs EPA to develop regulations by Dec. 31, 2025, that would set targets of at least 30 percent reusables by 2032.

It would exempt medical products, personal protective equipment and products for public health or for people with disabilities.

In comments on Twitter, Huffman said the bill aims to shift the U.S. away from its “overreliance” on single-use plastic.

“The truth is we can’t recycle ourselves out of this problem,” Huffman said. “We have to turn off the plastic production tap. We all do our best to have reusable items.”

Huffman, Booker and others in Congress wrote a letter over the summer asking the EPA to more tightly regulate the climate and community impacts of chemical recycling.

ACC’s Baca, however, said the bill is an “assault on manufacturing” that would stall efforts to fight climate change because plastics are vital to manufacturing things like electric cars and wind turbines, and to making packaging that prevents food waste.

“ACC urges Congress not to be distracted by this harmful bill, and instead focus on plastics legislation that would strengthen the U.S. economy while reducing plastic waste,” he said.