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:
Attorney General Bonta is committed to addressing the plastic pollution crisis. On April 28, 2022, he announced an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. On November 2, 2022, he sent letters to plastic bags manufacturers demanding that they substantiate their claims that the bags are recyclable. On April 25, 2023, he led a coalition of 16 states in urging the Federal Trade Commission to update its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims to exclude chemical recycling from the definition of recycling. On August 1, 2023, he announced leading a coalition of 14 states in urging the Biden Administration to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to combat the plastic pollution crisis.
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.