This was co-written by Cynthia Palmer, Petrochemical Strategy Advisor, Moms Clean Air Force:
Over the last few years, plastics industry lobbyists and the EPA under the Trump administration have been promoting a decades-old incineration method as a new way to solve the plastic pollution crisis. Now the Biden EPA is wavering over whether to embrace the same lies.
Plastics lobbyists are calling the process “advanced recycling,” even though nothing gets recycled. Instead, the trash that enters a so-called “advanced recycling” facility is burned, creating harmful air pollution and toxic ash.
For chemical industry lobbyists, this is like a dream come true. What they are doing is truly sinister. The industry has already convinced 20 states to redefine plastics incineration as “manufacturing” and “advanced recycling.” Calling incineration a form of recycling allows chemical companies to dodge pollution controls and cash in on government bonds and tax breaks. Having a way to make plastic waste disappear that sounds eco-friendly helps the industry justify the exponential growth in plastics production. This is greenwashing at its worst.
But the petrochemical lobby’s biggest prize awaits: Convincing EPA to do the same at the federal level. This would leave these plastics incineration facilities free to emit as much harmful air pollution as they wish, without any monitoring, reporting, or control technologies.
Burning plastics moves the landfill from the Earth to the sky — and directly into our lungs. Many plastics incinerators are located in low-wealth communities and communities of color that are already overburdened by pollution. Calling these incinerators “advanced recycling” is a cynical way to sidestep the pollution controls of the Clean Air Act.