In an article published on May 3, 2019, news provider Plastics News reported on a hearing on recycling by the U.S House Science Committee titled “Closing the Loop: Emerging Technologies in Plastics Recycling.” Head of the committee Haley Stevens commented that “our recycling policies haven’t kept pace with today’s plastics use” and that “we urgently need a national strategy to build out our country’s recycling infrastructure. At the same time, we must invest in research and development of sustainable materials and processes as well as in standards.” The committee heard discussion on China’s recent ban on imported plastic waste increasing costs for domestic recycling programs, but also that this represents a chance to improve them. The article reports only 9% of all plastics are being currently recycled in the U.S., with the most widely recycled plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) being recycled at a rate of just 30%.

Chemical recycling was discussed as a potential option to support improvement, but the technology was noted as needing further development before being economically viable. Tim Boven is the director of Dow’s Recycling and packaging for the Americas and told the committee “we have to work on the business model side. We’re talking about mature technologies like gasification and pyrolysis, they’ve been around for a long time [but] they’ve not been used widely for the purpose of recycling plastic.” A recent report published by the industry association the American Chemistry Council (ACC) found “the potential economic impact of expanding advanced plastic recycling and recovery technologies in the United States to be nearly $10 billion.” This includes a range of products that collected plastics could be converted into including “chemicals and chemical feedstocks for new plastics, lower carbon transportation fuels, and other petroleum-based commodities.”

A recent report published by the Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA) found that “although Americans are more environmentally concerned than ever, a patchwork system of local policies has confounded consumers and damaged recycling efforts.” Residents in the U.S. were found to be unsure or misinformed about plastic recycling with the report identifying that “92% of respondents are unsure or believe anything with a plastic resin label could be recycled curbside, although only two of the seven [product recycling] codes are consistently recyclable.”

Read more

Steve Toloken (May 3, 2019). “Congress probes plastics recycling challenges.” Plastic News

ACC (March 20, 2019). “Report finds $10 Billion in potential economic output from advanced technologies that recycle and recover plastics.”

GMA (April 10, 2019). “Americans baffled by broken recycling system.”

GMA (April 10, 2019). “Reduce. Reuse. Confuse. How best intentions have led to confusion, contamination, and a broken recycling system in America.” (pdf)

Kent Miller (May 31, 2019). “Recycling infrastructure underfunded, industry leaders say.” Plastics News