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Plastics bill works way through legislature

One cure for Pennsylvania’s plastic recycling problems could be changing how some plastics are classified and regulated under state law.

House Bill 1808 was discussed Monday by members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Macungie, would reclassify some plastics as post-use polymers rather than garbage. The conversion of post-use plastic through advanced recycling will still have to comply with all EPA and DEC regulations.

The advanced recycling process can include pyrolysis, gasification, depolymerization, catalytic cracking, reforming and hydrogenation technologies. The plastics could be turned into raw materials, feedstocks, chemicals, liquid fuels, waxes or lubricants.

Advanced recycling facilities would not include a resource recovery facility, processing facility, municipal waste processing or disposal facility or any other type of facility that receives unsorted municipal waste to separate out post-use polymers for use in advanced recycling.

Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, and Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Oil City, have voted for the bill during recent committee votes.

“Recycling and recovery technologies represent an emerging market and provide the ability to remove plastics from the waste stream by converting them into valuable feedstock for new materials,” Mackenzie wrote. “Treating post-use plastics as raw materials for “manufacturing” and not “waste” will remove the barriers of misclassifying this emerging industry and promote continued innovation and investment. The current law does not clearly classify these new technologies as manufacturing and this legislation will provide regulatory certainty as the post-use plastics and recycling industry grows.”

The legislation had begun moving through committees earlier this year before it was amended by the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The amended version passed 16-9, with all Republicans, including Rapp, voting in favor and only one of the committee’s 10 Democrats — Pam Snyder of Carmicheals, voting in favor. One Senate vote has been held, with the chamber’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approving the bill, 7-4, with Hutchinson voting in favor. The House of Representatives approved the bill 155-46 in July, with all of the chamber’s Republicans voting for the bill and some support from House Democrats.

“Advanced recycling and recovery facilities can process post-use plastics into new plastics and chemicals, raw materials for manufacturing, and transportation fuels that have lower emissions than conventional fuels,” Mackenzie wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Converting these resources into new feedstocks and fuels complements existing mechanical recycling and reduces the amount of material sent to landfills. With China’s recent rejection of U.S. waste plastics, it is critically important that we advance policies and a regulatory framework that will allow these technologies to flourish. As we work to address challenges around pollution, innovators through the free market have provided a possible solution.”

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