It is also clear that the initial release of the list is just a step towards delineating more clearly which plastic packaging applications are considered acceptable to recycling stakeholders.
Bourque of the Ecology Center said he would like the US Plastics Pact to list multi-layer film packaging, which presents sorting problems and has very limited end markets.
“This will be a big problem and is not yet addressed in the Pact,” he said.
Regarding multi-layer films, the US Plastics Pact noted in a statement to Resource Recycling that “we are investigating whether multi-material flexible materials can be addressed by design, among other things. The US Pact uses APR’s design guide and we recommend Activators to redesign multi-material flexible materials into a mono-material format to make them compatible for circularity.”
The Ecology Center is part of the Alliance of Mission-Based Recyclers (AMBR), an alliance of four non-profit MRF operators who founded last year.
AMBR National Coordinator Lynn Hoffman, Co-President of Twin Cities-based Eureka Recycling (another US Plastic Pact activator), released a statement in support of the list.
“As recyclers, we welcome this significant and much-needed step forward to prioritize investments in plastics that can be effectively and safely recycled at scale and eliminate or redesign everything else,” said Hoffman. “With limited resources and the urgency to address climate change and plastic pollution, we need to focus on what can work, and these plastics just don’t make that list.”
She also stressed the importance of the five criteria used to determine what lands on the list. The first (and most important) criterion was whether a material met the definition of reusable, recyclable or compostable. However, the materials on the list also met other criteria, namely whether a material contains hazardous chemicals or creates hazardous conditions during manufacturing, recycling or composting processes; whether it can be avoided or replaced by a reuse model; whether it hinders the recyclability or compostability of other items; and whether it has a high probability of ending up as waste.
“This criterion is arguably the biggest part of the story,” Hoffman noted, “because it establishes that this is an evolving process that must keep pace with the evolving packaging stream and a long-term commitment to align packaging design with reuse. recycling and composting systems.”
The plastics industry group screams badly
The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents chemical and plastics manufacturers and is not part of the pact, immediately attacked the list.
“Unfortunately, the US Plastics Pact lacked a transparent, data-driven and scientific third-party approach, and its process appears to be rooted in ideologies and a predetermined, misguided outcome,” said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC, in a statement. “Indeed, the list of plastic materials they propose to eliminate by 2025 will only hinder the acceleration of a circular economy, slowing progress toward a lower-carbon future and limiting our ability to use greater amounts of recycled material in plastic packaging.”
Baca referred to the circularity goals of the plastics industry were discontinued in 2018Reuse, recycle or recover 100% of plastic packaging by 2040. Last year, ACC required a federal guideline that requires all plastic products to contain at least 30% recycled content by 2030.
In his statement, Baca also pointed to private sector investments to increase chemical recycling, which ACC calls “advanced recycling.” The names refer to a broad family of different technologies that use pressure, heat, and solvents to break down plastics into chemical products that can be used to make new plastics, fuels, oils, waxes, and other products. In 2021, as the US Plastics Pact released its roadmap to 2025, ACC criticized the document no mention of chemical recycling.
In a statement, the US Plastics Pact defended the list, noting that it was the result of extensive discussions by representatives from more than 100 companies, nonprofits and government organizations.
“These executives have spent the last 16 months analyzing publicly available data, laws and regulations and working together to identify materials that pose end-of-life challenges that are impeding efforts to achieve circularity for plastic packaging in the U.S. market,” the statement said Statement of the US Plastics Pact. “The list includes items that have also been identified by other groups, including the Consumer Goods Forum, other Plastics Pacts, as well as identified as materials to avoid in existing sustainable packaging guidance from retailers.”
Environmental organizations show their support
The Ocean Conservancy, one of the group’s 12 NGO members, said it hoped policymakers would refer to the list and turn the voluntary commitments into statutory bans. The group released a fact sheet on the list.
“Recycling will only work if we stop pumping pollutants and non-recyclable materials into the system, and one of the things we need recycling to work if we are to keep plastics out of our oceans,” Anja Malawi Brandon, US Plastics Policy analyst at Ocean Conservancy and a member of the Pact’s Advisory Board, said in a statement. “Study after study is very clear on this: we need to reduce plastic production and increase our recycling rates to have a meaningful impact on plastic pollution.”
She noted that the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup show effort that most of the rubbish found on beaches and in waterways is virtually irrecyclable.
“The phasing out of these 11 materials will go a long way in cleaning up the recycling stream and our shores,” she said.
Others commented on specific inclusions. For example, the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC), a member of the US Plastics Pact, has pushed the group to add PVC and PFAS to the list Chemical used in a variety of products that persist in the body and in the environment for a long time and raise health concerns.
“The National Stewardship Action Council is committed to a circular economy, which means we don’t keep pollution moving,” Sanborn wrote in a statement to Plastics Recycling Update. “We are working to stop it at the source and work it out of our consumer products. We are pleased that PFAS and PVC are on the USPP’s list of problematic and unnecessary materials to be eliminated, and we are proud to be members of the US Plastics Pact.”