ACC calls for 30% recycled plastic by 2030, scaling of chemical recycling

Author: Janet Miranda

2021/07/13

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The American Chemistry Council (ACC) on Tuesday announced its comprehensive five-point plan to accelerate the growth of recycling to reduce plastic waste.

The plan includes what the ACC calls “bold steps” to bolster a regulatory system and enable the rapid scaling of chemical recycling in order to reach a target of 30% recycled plastic in packaging by 2030.

“It’s time to accelerate the circular economy for plastic packaging,” said the ACC’s Joshua Baca, vice president, plastics. “We need Congress to act on a comprehensive national strategy that will capture the value of used plastic by engaging the entire plastics value chain, from plastic makers to brand companies to all Americans,”

The proposals for congressional action centre around a national strategy that aims to encourage a circular economy to divert plastic waste from landfills and help drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

The recommendations would require all plastic packaging to include at least 30% recycled plastic by 2030 through a national recycled plastic standard, scaling of chemical and mechanical recycling and even establishing an “American-designed” producer responsibility system for plastic packaging.

“Individual states have independent proposals towards plastic waste and recycling, which includes, among others, deposit return schemes, minimum recycled content usage, extended producer responsibility (EPR), and adoption of chemical recycling. However, a uniform policy at the federal and state levels has been lacking in the country to date," said Paula Leardini, senior analyst, plastics recycling, the Americas for ICIS.

The five-point plan also recommends directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to bring together industry and local governments to develop a national recycling framework for plastics, in addition to conducting a study that compares the impacts or raw materials to increase recycling access, collection and outreach for all materials.

In 2020, only 12% of plastics were recycled in the US with the rest disposed of by incineration, exportation or ended up in a landfill. Under current measures, a recycling rate of only 16% in packaging can be achieved with just mechanical recycling, based on studies by ICIS Consulting.

A combination of chemical and mechanical recycling can achieve 30% recycled content in plastics packaging by 2030 and 40% recycled content in plastics packaging by 2040.

Several brands have been committing to voluntary goals to use a minimum of 25% of post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) in their packaging by 2025.

"Supply to fulfil those targets is still limited, especially for high-quality food-grade recycled resins to be used in food and beverage packaging. Investment in collection and recycling capabilities are needed to secure availability and the reliability of supply," Leardini said.

The ACC emphasised that the scaling of chemical recycling will be the key to increase recycling volumes. It says it will allow more types of plastics to be recycled as well as broadening the use of applications for recycled plastics such as packaging for food, pharmaceutical and medical grade products, which is limited under mechanical recycling.

“These technologies and capabilities can help the more than 400 global brands that have committed to using more recycled plastics in their packaging to achieve their circular business goals,” Baca said.

The trade group’s new proposals are in line with its two circular economy goals: 100% of US plastic packaging will be recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and 100% of US will be reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040.

Additional reporting by Prashanth Sabbineni, James Ray and Paula Leardini

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