ACC Testifies Before Congress About Recycling Technologies

Plastics Division Expert Weighs in On Solutions to Plastic Waste

On June 24, 2021, Joshua Baca of the American Chemistry Council testified before the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology about what the industry is doing to address plastic waste. The hearing, “Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Research: Moving from Staggering Statistics to Sustainable Systems,” featured expert commentary about how best to solve the problem of plastic waste while acknowledging the pivotal role plastic plays in everyday life.

In his testimony, Baca called plastic waste in the environment unacceptable and explained that the plastics industry is deeply committed to creating a more circular economy for plastics and ending plastic waste in the environment.

Baca discussed the importance of advanced recycling technologies which are helping to convert significantly more used plastic into new products that can be recycled again and again. In addition, these technologies pick up where traditional recycling leaves off by not only recycling a broader variety of plastic products, but also by enabling post use plastics to be used in food, medical and pharmaceutical applications. Over $6 billion in investments in modernizing recycling in the United States have been announced since 2017, most of which is focused on commercial-scale advanced recycling facilities.

With the help of advanced recycling technologies and partnerships across the plastics value chain, ACC member companies have found new and innovative ways to remanufacture used plastics into new products to reach a currently underserved market for recycled products that has been estimated to be worth $120 billion. For example, by 2025, Shell plans “to use 1 million metric tons of post-use plastic per year as alternative feedstocks.” In all, “existing and planned advanced recycling facilities in the United States have the potential to divert an estimated 7 billion pounds of waste from landfills annually,” Baca said, which is equivalent to “the weight of 28,000 Statues of Liberty.”

These technologies hold the promise of revolutionizing the way we think about recycling by capturing value from hard-to-recycle products like plastic tubes, multilayer pouches, and snack bags, while reducing waste in the process. Fourteen states have passed laws to support more technologically advanced ways to recycle plastics.

Baca urged Congress to build on state efforts and take needed action by setting national standards to improve recycling and reduce plastic waste. He also encouraged the passage of the bipartisan Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Research Act, which would “improve the global competitiveness of U.S. plastics recycling and ensure U.S. leadership in plastics waste reduction and recycling research.” That includes technologies related to advanced recycling.

In her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) pointed out that “we only have to look to the past year and a half to see the important medical and safety functions of plastic. Face masks, protective shields and other personal protective equipment allowed America’s essential workers to be on the front lines of our nation’s COVID-19 response.” She also noted that “plastic can be designated to be rigid enough to be used in vehicle safety applications, durable enough to hold liquid products for years, and flexible enough to keep our food fresh.”

Baca emphasized that the plastics industry is committed to a world free of plastic pollution and is taking action to help make that future a reality. ACC looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to drive important change.

Continue to visit America’s Plastic Makers: Making Sustainable ChangeSM to learn more about the steps we are taking to help end plastic waste, build a circular economy for plastics and create a more sustainable future.

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