The American Chemistry Council is calling on Congress, as part of a new legislative initiative presented by the group on July 13, to set a national standard that all plastic packaging will have at least 30 percent recycled content by 2030.
As concern has grown in Congress and some Democrats propose tougher plastic laws and taxes on virgin resin, the Washington-based ACC released a blueprint citing a practical response to concerns about waste and recycling.
The ACC’s five-part agenda, contained in a new report, “A Plan for Congress to Accelerate a Circular Economy for Plastics,” also calls on Washington to support efforts to promote chemical recycling, pass state producer responsibility laws, and a national one Adopt framework for plastics recycling.
Some of the ideas echo an October ACC statement, but the most sweeping new element could be the endorsement of federal legislation that requires 30 percent recycled content in all plastic packaging.
If it were to become law, it would be a significant step up from its current level of less than 10 percent recycled content, although a 30 percent level would meet the voluntary goals of many major consumer brands for the next five to ten years.
Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC, said the new ACC plan was in response to calls asking what supports the plastics industry. He sees political ideas in this to increase both the supply and the demand for recycled plastics.
“On all of these issues, stakeholders, lawmakers and policy makers have asked our industry to fully outline the specifics of our goals to accelerate the circular economy for plastics and waste in the environment,” said Baca. “That’s what this vision does.”
However, there is no specific piece of legislation in Congress detailing ACC’s ideas at this point. Baca said the plastics sector group would work with lawmakers on this.
“We are living in a very divided Congress right now,” he said. “We believe we have created something realistic, actionable and pragmatic. … I think we will have a great opportunity to generate overarching support for our ideas. “
The first priority listed in the report is the mandate for recycled ingredients. ACC said it would apply to all plastic packaging for goods, food and beverages.
“We absolutely have to increase the demand for this,” said Baca, referring to a recently published report by the consulting firm ICIS, according to which the US would have to double the amount of plastic recycled annually to 13 billion pounds in order to reach a 30 percent mark Standard for recycled content.
A bill now in Congress, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, would mandate recycled content in plastic packaging nationwide. And California passed sweeping law last year that stipulates that many plastic beverage bottles must have recycled 25 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.
ACC’s plan would apply to all packaging, not just bottles. According to Baca, ACC sees the various elements of its plan as interconnected.
“The components are all interrelated; a recycled plastics standard of 30 percent by 2030 will succeed based on the second key point of our proposal, which creates a modern regulatory framework and ensures that things like advanced recycling are recognized as part of the solution, “said Baca.
ACC wants Congress to pass a national law on advanced recycling, similar to what the industry has successfully enforced in 14 states. The new laws treat the chemical recycling plants as production plants and not as waste disposal.
Baca called for more specific legal recognition of advanced recycling, which breaks plastics down into monomers or uses solvents to recycle them.
“Advanced recycling will play a critical role in meeting this recycled plastic standard that we require,” said Baca. “It should be codified in law.”
ACC’s press release is tied to an ICIS report that estimates that chemical recycling could meet 23 percent of the need for recycled plastic in packaging by 2030 if the 30 percent target becomes a reality.
The ACC report also calls for greater support for traditional mechanical recycling technologies for sorting and grinding plastics, as 40 percent of that capacity is underutilized.