OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced co-leading a coalition of 15 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen its proposed rule for advanced recycling facilities. “Advanced recycling” — also known as “chemical recycling” — refers to the heat or solvent-based processes that, according to the plastics industry, allows “more types of used plastics…to be recaptured and remanufactured into new plastics and products.” In reality, not only is 86 to 99 percent of the plastic waste used in the advanced recycling process typically destroyed, but also plastic waste itself can contain many harmful impurities, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
“There is no denying that the EPA is moving in the right direction: the advanced recycling process is woefully under-regulated, threatening both human health and our environment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “However, my fellow attorneys general and I are urging the EPA to strengthen its proposed rule. With the United States having the unfortunate distinction of being the world’s leading generator of plastic waste, more aggressive action is required.”
The proposed rule, which was announced on June 15, 2023, seeks to prevent the use of plastic waste that contains impurities identified by EPA. In specific, if an advanced recycling company wants to manufacture any one of the 18 chemical substances subject to the proposed rule — in order to ultimately turn the chemical substance into fuel or plastic — the company must first ensure that the plastic waste it intends to use is free of certain impurities. If the company's plastic waste contains those impurities, it will have to notify the EPA and potentially be subject to additional regulatory requirements.
In their comment letter, the attorneys general:
- Underscore that the proposed rule falls short of covering the entire range of impurities associated with plastic waste.
- Recommend that EPA require testing and certification to ensure that the proposed rule is effective and enforceable. Under the proposed rule, it is unclear how EPA will verify that companies manufacturing one of the 18 substances are doing so using plastic waste free of harmful impurities.
- Recommend that EPA more thoroughly analyze the proposed rule’s implications for environmental justice concerns. Advanced recycling facilities are disproportionately located in communities of color and low-income communities, putting the health of residents at risk.
Co-leading these comments alongside Attorney General Bonta are the Attorneys General of Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Joining the co-leads in submitting the comments are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
A copy of the comment letter to EPA can be found here.