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85 The collection, processing, and reuse of plastics waste in the United States is driven significantly by federal, state, and local policy and regulation per- taining to solid waste management and/or recycling (NASEM 2022; Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). Container deposit laws, recycled content mandates, and other legislative provisions in some states have influenced markets for plastics waste and other materials in substantial ways, at least at the regional level. The national impact of current state policies and regulations has been limited, however. As discussed in Chapter 3, less than 10 percent of the plastic used in the United States is recycled in some way. Moreover, the amount of post-consumer plastic recovered in the United States has decreased since 2016 and the decline was exacerbated in 2018 when China stopped accepting plastics waste and other waste materials from the United States and other countries around the world (NASEM 2022; Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). Increasing public awareness of the low and declining rate of plastics recycling and of plastics waste âleakageâ (litter) into water and onto land has resulted in new policy and regulatory efforts in some states regarding management of plastics waste. Many of these initiatives aim to increase collection and reuse of plastics waste, increasing both supply and demand for plastics waste (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). In this chapter, we examine policy and regulation aspects of the plas- tics waste collection and recycling challenge that are particularly relevant to use of recycled plastics in infrastructure. Due to the large scale of infrastructure material needs, policies and regulations that influence sup- ply and demand for plastics waste at scale for the most recycled and used plasticsâpolyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene 5 Impact of Policy and Regulation on the Use of Plastics Waste in Infrastructure in the United States
86 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), and polypropylene (PP)âare especially of interest. PLASTICS RECYCLING POLICIES AND REGULATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) monitors plastics recy- cling activities across the United States, collects related data (USEPA 2022a), publishes guidance (USEPA 2022b), and has a coordinating role with the states and the private sector (USEPA 2022a). In 2021, USEPA published the National Recycling Strategy (see Box 5-1). However, the policies and regu- lations that govern and influence plastics recycling activity are at the state level. There is no federal recycling law. A majority of states have policies and regulations pertaining to municipal recycling programs (NCSL 2020), but the focus and extent of these policies and regulations vary widely, especially with respect to plastics. The outcome is a set of local and state policies that may be effective but that can have unintended consequences at the regional or national level. Examples of unintended consequences include increased en- vironmental impacts due to processing and transportation of materials, com- petition among industries for recycled materials leading to price escalation, reduced revenue to materials recovery facilities (MRFs) from incentives for private collection and use of PET and HDPE, and elimination of a regional supply of HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE for reuse from bans of plastic bags. Different types, amounts, and quality of data are collected by the states to support and understand the effectiveness of their recycling policies and regulations. There are significant data gaps that need to be addressed to provide a deeper understanding of the plastics waste collection, process- ing, and reuse/recycling ecosystem in the United States (Di et al. 2021). For example, plastic-specific data are not routinely collected and compiled by state and federal agencies. As discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, the plastics collection, processing, and recycling system in the United States has bottlenecks and components that are not functional, and market drivers do not exist to fix these problems. Policies have been developed and implemented in some states to address some aspects of the system inefficiencies and market failures with respect to end-of-life management of plastics and other materials. These policies have been driven by a range of waste management, economic, and environmental protection goals. The goals underlying recycling policies vary from state to state and are not always well defined. Also, the policies often are focused on particular materials or activities and may not reflect a holistic systems per- spective. Policies focused on specific kinds of plastics recovery and process- ing, for example, may be oriented to some particular uses that may or may not be optimal from the perspective of societal and environmental benefits.
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 87 BOX 5-1 USEPA 2021 National Recycling Strategy In November 2021, USEPA released the National Recycling Strategy (USEPA 2021a), aimed at strengthening municipal solid waste recycling systems in the United States and advancing related goals of increasing equitable access to recycling services, reducing environmental impacts of recycling, stimulating economic development, and moving toward a more circular economy. The 2021 Strategy was developed in response to a 2019 request from the U.S. Congress to USEPA to develop a ânational recycling strategy to strengthen and sustain the current system with recommendations for voluntary actionsâ (U.S. House of Rep- resentatives 2019). The 2021 National Recycling Strategy includes five strategic objectives and various sub-objectives and recommended actions under each of the strategic objectives. 1. Improve markets for recycled commodities through market develop- ment, analysis, manufacturing, and research. 2. Increase collection of recyclable materials and improve recycling in- frastructure through analysis, funding, product design, and processing efficiencies. 3. Reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream through out- reach to and education of the public on the value of proper recycling. 4. Enhance policies and programs to support recyclability and recycling through strengthened federal and international coordination, analysis, research on product pricing, and sharing of best practices. 5. Standardize measurement and increase data collection through co- ordinated recycling definitions, measures, targets, and performance indicators. Development of the 2021 National Recycling Strategy was a collaborative effort with various public- and private-sector organizations involved with the U.S. recycling ecosystem and with interested members of the public. As the authorities of USEPA in the realm of recycling are limited, the agency largely has a coordination and support role in regard to recycling. Thus, the National Recycling Strategy identifies âobjectives and stakeholder-led actions to create a stronger, more resilient, less impactful and more cost-effective U.S. [municipal solid waste] recycling system.â The 2021 Strategy also aims to strengthen and expand the coordination and support role of USEPA. In November 2022, USEPA announced a new Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grant program and a new Recycling Education and Outreach grant program (USEPA 2022b). These programs are funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, which provides US$375 million over 5 years to USEPA to strengthen recycling in the United States. This funding was also used to support development of a Model Recycling Program Toolkit, which was released in November 2022 (USEPA 2022c, 2022d).
88 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE States have used some common tools to implement policies and regula- tions to take on various parts of the challenge of collecting, processing, and reusing and remanufacturing plastics waste. Here we examine some of the tools being deployed to increase both the collection and supply of plastics waste and some of the tools used to increase demand for multiple-use plastics. Extended Producer Responsibility Laws Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws extend a producerâs financial and managerial responsibility for its products and packaging beyond the manufacturing stage, both upstream to product design and downstream to post-consumer reuse, recycling, or safe disposal (OECD 2022; USEPA 2022a). Internationally, Germanyâs Green Dot system introduced extended producer responsibility in the 1990s (see Box 5-2). In the United States, at present, there are 130 laws in 33 states and Washington, DC, that address EPR for 16 products (Product Stewardship Institute 2022) (see Figure 5-1). BOX 5-2 A Recycling Model: Germany Germany has been a leader in innovative waste management and recycling for the past 30 years. Germany had a crisis in post-consumer waste packaging in the 1990s when landfill capacity was decreasing faster than the rate of increase in volume of single-use consumer plastics and other packaging waste. Challenged with this forthcoming crisis, legislation was passed to reduce the quantity of household packaging waste that ended up in landfills. The champion for that leadership in environmental responsibility was Klaus TÃ¶pfer, German Environmental Minister in the early 1990s. He proposed the Green Dot system (German: Der GrÃ¼ne Punkt), a license symbol used on packag- ing, showing that a fee has been paid by the manufacturer to fund recycling of their package when it becomes waste. The basic idea is that consumers who see the Green DotÂ® logo know that the manufacturer of the product contributes to the cost of recovery and recycling. The logo is a trademark protected worldwide. European governments saw the wisdom of Germanyâs plan and in late 1994 the European Union (EU-27) passed the European Packaging Directive, formally known as the âPackaging and Packaging Waste Directive â 94/62/EC.â Today the Green Dot logo is used by more than 130,000 companies, en- compassing hundreds of billions of packages. The Green Dot scheme is binding on all companies if their products use packaging and requires manufacturers to recover their own packaging. Through the use of this recycling scheme Germany has been able to reduce their total waste by 1 million tons every year. The Green Dot recycling system uses six different bins classified according to a color system, which tells users what kind of waste they can put into each of them. The yellow bin is for plastics, the blue bin for paper and cardboard, the
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 89 EPR shifts the responsibility for managing products at the end of their use- ful life away from municipalities and local governments to the industries responsible for manufacturing the products. EPR and associated product take-back requirements increase collection of materials at product end of life, strengthen markets for recycled commodities, and reduce consumer confusion about recycling (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). EPR laws can also motivate producers to design for recycling, reuse, and reduction. Because responsibility applies to all producers, EPR provides a common set of rules for competitors in the marketplace (Product Stewardship Institute 2023). It has been estimated that EPR would add less than 2 percent to the pack- aging cost (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). One type of EPR program may allow a producer responsibility organization to collect the waste, process it, and move it. Others allow municipalities to manage the waste and then be reimbursed by the producer responsibility organizations. Some owners of MRFs and waste haulers have voiced concerns that new EPR laws could disrupt their longtime contractual relationships. white bin for clear glass, the brown bin for colored glass, the green bin for green glass, and a sixth bin for food waste and organic matter (Bravo 2021). Although the effectiveness of the system is undeniable, the involvement of citizens has been key to its success, with citizens having to separate their waste with great care. Industry compliance is managed by an umbrella organization called PRO (Packaging Recovery Organization) Europe, formed in 1995. PRO Europe man- ages the use of the Green Dot logo and acts as a guardian of the Green Dot trademark. Its main task is to help national organizations implement successful collection systems (GD Europe 2022). Implementation of the Green Dot recycling system has been a model for plastics recycling worldwide and has contributed to the market growth in use of recycled plastics. The German plastics recycling market stood at 5.38 million metric tons in 2020 and is forecast to reach 7.78 million metric tons by 2030, growing at an annual growth rate of 3.80 percent until 2030 (BusinessWire 2022; GD Europe 2022). A report in 2017 named Germany the worldâs leading recycler (Papineschi et al. 2017), compared with 25 other wealthy nations. Germans recycle 66 percent of their waste, according to the researchers, who compiled their data from official sources and adjusted the numbers to account for different countriesâ methods of measuring. The United States was 25th on the list, with Americans recycling just under 35 percent of their waste. Finally, running in parallel is the bottle and can recycling system in Germany referred to as the Pfand (i.e., the deposit system). When one buys certain bottles and cans in a supermarket or at a kiosk in Germany, a deposit (Pfand) is paid on top of the product price. Upon return of the empty bottle, the deposit is refunded, and the bottle gets recycled or reused (Simple Germany 2022). This system has its own unique set of logos.
90 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE EPR can be extended to individual producers, or it can be accomplished across a partnership of companies. For example, Californiaâs Plastic Pollu- tion Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54) requires all producers of single-use plastic packaging and foodware who do busi- ness in California to join a producer responsibility organization. Producer responsibility organizations must ensure that plastic is recycled, and they must pay for necessary recycling infrastructure. Targets for increasing re- cycling efficiency and source reduction have been set over time. Producer responsibility organizations may require a neutral entity to ensure equitable responsibilities and actions across the program. Container Deposit Laws (Bottle Bills) A container deposit law, commonly referred to as a bottle bill, requires a minimum refundable deposit (commonly 5 to 10 cents per container) on beverage containers. The deposit, or return system handling fee, is intended to cover the cost of collecting containers. The fees are charged by the gov- ernment, then returned to the collecting entity. In the United States, the only plastic material being recovered through deposit return systems is PET (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). The impact of deposit return systems in PET FIGURE 5-1 Number of state Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws by state. SOURCE: Product Stewardship Institute 2022.
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 91 collection is significant; these systems account for 50 percent of all PET and 25 percent of all plastic collected in the United States. The container deposit collection systems divert revenue from municipal recycling systems (Dimino and Timpane 2022), but the containers from deposit return systems are presorted, cleaner, and therefore generally of higher value than bales of containers from MRFs. Currently there are 10 U.S. states with container deposit laws. The first state to pass a bottle bill was Oregon in 1971, initially intended to recover metal and glass containers. More than 40 countries outside of the United States have container deposit laws. Redemption rates are quite high, some- times exceeding 80 percent (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). Also, rates are correlated with deposit amounts (see Appendix E); higher deposits generate greater return of bottles, although this relationship tends to be fairly flat in European Union (EU) countries with high deposits (see Figure 5-2). In most cases, container deposit return rates far exceed other collection sys- tems. Success requires that redemption centers be conveniently located to ensure broad access for all populations. There is discussion about extend- ing deposit laws to other products, though demand for a product must be sufficient to ensure a market. FIGURE 5-2 2019-2020 container redemption rates as related to the price paid per deposit in the United States and Europe. NOTE: PPP = purchasing power parity. SOURCE: Presentation to the study committee by Basuhi Ravi, Karan Bhuwalka, Elizabeth Moore, and Randolph Kirchain on October 5, 2022.
92 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE POLICIES FOR INCREASING DEMAND FOR RECYCLED PLASTICS Minimum Post-Consumer Recycled Content Mandates Minimum content laws require producers to register with the state, pay fees, and report on progress to benchmarks established in the regulations. As discussed in Chapter 4, environmental and economic life-cycle assess- ments are effective tools to evaluate which value of minimum content goals or other policy paths provide greater benefits and lower costs. Minimum content requirements usually are part of an overall strategy that includes other recycling policy tools (Heller et al. 2020). There are disadvantages with minimum content laws, including that policy makers decide what makes the most sense, not producers or consumers. On top of that, loop- holes and exemptions are common (e.g., see Quinn 2022), there are mul- tiple administrative burdens, supply of quality post-consumer plastics is currently inadequate for anticipated demand (see Chapter 3), and models (and history) show limited impact of minimum content laws on recycling revenue and supply (Ravi et al. [see Appendix E]). Furthermore, as shown in Figure 5-3, recycled content mandates can be more difficult for smaller producers to achieve as they compete with larger producers for limited supply of plastics waste to recycle. On the other hand, minimum recycled content targets are a cornerstone of the EU strategy for a circular plastic economy (Pouikli 2020; Syberg et al. 2021). Minimum recycled content laws in the United States are not new. Cali- fornia enacted a law in 1991 that required some rigid plastic packaging materials manufactured in state to meet several goals, including 25 percent post-consumer recycled waste content. This law is often credited with FIGURE 5-3 Percentage of recycled content used in PET bottles in California by the five largest beverage producers in 2020 and 2021. SOURCE: Ravi et al. (see Appendix E).
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 93 providing much of the bottle manufacturersâ recycled HDPE. The law also resulted in increased value of baled plastics processed at MRFs and reduced the risk of investing in plastics recycling. As of 2022, three states had passed minimum content laws: Californiaâs Plastic Minimum Content Standards law (AB 793), Washington State (SB 5022), and New Jersey (S-2515). Washington Stateâs law will phase in dur- ing 2023 and New Jerseyâs is scheduled for 2024. Implementation at the state level risks inconsistent regulations that create a burden for national and international producers. California, Washington, and New Jersey require post-consumer re- cycled content in packaging, including beverage packaging. California AB 793 required beverage packages to have at least 15 percent post-consumer content in 2022, climbing to 25 percent in 2025 and 50 percent in 2030. Brand companies have announced their intention to use at least 25 percent recycled content by 2025 to 2030, rising to 50 percent in later years. State laws will force those who have not yet announced to participate as well. The State of Washington includes plastic milk bottles in SB 5022. The adequacy of recycled plastic material sources to meet recycled con- tent requirements is an important consideration. California has a container deposit system that achieves about 70 percent return rate. The State of Washington does not have container deposit laws or any special provision to collect the needed quantity of post-consumer material. The State of New Jersey also does not have container deposit laws or any special provision to collect the needed quantity of post-consumer material. Curbside collection, a primary means for collecting HDPE containers, achieves about 30 per- cent collection rate. The collected post-consumer HDPE, and the collected PET, LDPE, and polypropylene, have uses beyond becoming packaging again. There remains a disconnect in mandated use and the supply of post- consumer plastics (e.g., Quinn 2022). While there may have been sufficient material to meet the early mandates, going forward, consumer behavior will dictate how much post-consumer material is recycled. The evaluation and avoidance of unintended consequences is also a critical consideration at a policy level. For example, industries responding to minimum recycled content requirements may compete for a limited sup- ply of recycled plastic, resulting in escalating material prices that are passed on to the consumer. Also, policy can create an artificial limit on recycling. For example, a California law limits recycled content to 50 percent in pipes, but the pipe industry reports it can use up to 70 percent. Purchasing Requirements Purchasing requirements promote the use of waste materials in the manu- facture of products. USEPA established the Comprehensive Procurement
94 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE Guideline Program, authorized by the Resource Conservation and Recov- ery Act. USEPA has designated 61 products in eight categories that can be manufactured with recovered materials. USEPA has also recommended practices for buying these products, and federal procurement programs are required to buy them. California has also proposed regulations for the state to purchase products made with recovered materials, âwithout regard to cost.â Other examples include the City of Portland, Oregonâs Sustainable Procurement Policy which highlights purchase of products with high post- consumer waste content; San Franciscoâs focus on increasing purchase of carpet with 45 percent recycled content, and Washington Stateâs laws to increase recycled and recyclable product purchases. SOME STATE POLICIES TO PROMOTE PLASTICS WASTE COLLECTION AND RECYCLING Washington In 2020 the Washington State Department of Ecology (WSDOE) completed five studies to better understand the state of plastics recycling (WSDOE 2022). The department found that the majority of the costs to recycle are borne by municipalities and their customers, that even readily recyclable types of plastic have low recycling efficiencies, that there are large variations in recycling costs across regions, and that the final destination of plastics is often unclear to consumers. Based on these studies, the WSDOE made 10 recommendations for managing plastic packaging. Short-term recommenda- tions set 2025 plastic use reduction goals at 100 percent recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging; 20 percent post-consumer recycled content; and reduced plastic packaging when possible. Longer term, the State of Washing- ton is focused on implementing EPR, additional minimum content in prod- ucts, and strengthened data collection on the materialsâ final destination. Through Senate Bill 5022, effective July 25, 2021, the State of Washing- ton established minimum recycled content requirements for plastic beverage containers, trash bags, and household cleaning and personal care product containers, put into place bans on problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging, and established standards for customer opt-in for food service packaging. The minimum recycled content requirements vary by source, and a phase-in schedule is included in the legislation. New Jersey In New Jersey, S-2515 sets new requirements in 2024, including 10 percent post-consumer recyclable (PCR) content in nonbeverage bottles, 15 percent PCR content in beverage bottles, 20 percent PCR content in carryout bags,
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 95 and 5 to 20 percent PCR content for trash can liners, rising in subsequent years. It has been estimated that the amount of available post-consumer recycled plastic, considering other competing uses such as PET fiber and HDPE pipe, will be enough for approximately 10 to 15 percent post-con- sumer content for PET and for HDPE. The adequacy of plastics waste sup- ply to meet the PCR content specifications is an issue (Quinn 2022). California Starting January 1, 2022, California Assembly Bill 793 requires a post- consumer plastic recycled content of 15 percent in plastic beverage contain- ers sold or offered for sale in California, increasing to 50 percent by 2030. This law is intended to increase market demand for recyclables. Other legislation in California (Senate Bill 54) requires that 65 percent of single-use plastic packaging and foodware sold or distributed in Califor- nia must be recycled by 2032. Recycling is defined by CalRecycle (2023) as âUsing waste as material to manufacture a new product. Recycling in- volves altering the physical form of an object or material and making a new object from the altered material.â Therefore, if plastic is used as a source of fuel or as feedstock for other chemicals, this will not be included in the 65 percent. The regulations also require responsible companies to join a producer responsibility organization that will pay US$500 million per year to the state from 2027 to 2032. Oregon The Oregon Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act took effect on January 1, 2022. The law is intended to facilitate recycling through expanded access for the public to recycling services, upgraded sorting fa- cilities, and reduced environmental risk of plastic pollution. Producers and manufacturers of packaging, paper products, and food serviceware will pay for the improvements. In Oregon, collected materials must go to âresponsible end marketsâ and cannot be exported to countries without proper regulations. It must be established that the waste management benefits outweigh those accom- plished by landfill diversion. The law is intended to increase the supply of recycled materials, improve the quality of collected material, address social inequity, and fund programs for waste prevention and product reuse. Hawaii In 2019, the State of Hawaii passed Act 254, which is focused on addressing the stateâs plastics waste management challenge through source reduction
96 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE and establishment of the Plastic Source Reduction Working Group. Act 254 specifies several tasks for the Working Group: 1. Formulate a plan for reducing and recovering plastic from the waste stream. 2. Develop strategies to encourage plastic reduction and reuse in the food service industry. 3. Provide recommendations to encourage reuse, reduction, recycling, and recovery of waste and create value-added products. 4. Consult with each county that has already enacted ordinances related to single-use plastics and develop recommendations for the implementation of a uniform, statewide policy. 5. Consult with stakeholders to develop appropriate exemptions to address concerns of health and safety, lack of suitable alternative products on the market, and lack of infrastructure, 6. Evaluate potential life-cycle and environmental implications of replacing plastic packaging with alternative products. The Working Group submitted a report to the Hawaii State Legislature in December 2020 that provided information and recommendations related to each aspect of its charge (Hawaii 2020). The recommendations are under consideration by the State. SOME INDUSTRY INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE PLASTICS WASTE COLLECTION AND RECYCLING An increasing number of companies are voluntarily making commitments intended to minimize waste, increase recycling content, and achieve higher recycling efficiencies. In 2018, for example, 380 companies signed the American Recycles Pledge launched by the USEPA (see Box 5-3). In other cases, these efforts are the responsibility of producer associations, including the following: â¢ The Recycling Partnership, supported by a collection of producers focused on solving challenges across the recycling value chain; â¢ The Association of Plastic Recyclers, an international trade associa- tion committed to plastics recycling; â¢ The U.S. Plastics Pact, which brings together businesses, not-for- profit organizations, government agencies, and research institutions that work together toward a common vision of a circular economy for plastics; and â¢ The Global Commitment and Plastics Pact Network, with more than 1,000 organizations, including businesses and governments,
IMPACT OF POLICY AND REGULATION ON THE USE OF PLASTICS WASTE 97 created to achieve a circular economy for plastics by eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging, redesigning products for better re- use and recycling, and maintaining plastics in circulation. FINDINGS â¢ The collection, processing, and reuse of plastics waste in the United States is driven significantly by federal, state, and local policy and regulations pertaining to solid waste management and/or recycling. â¢ PET, HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE plastics waste are of primary inter- est for reuse in infrastructure. Policies to incentivize collection and to support collection and processing infrastructure are needed to increase supply of these plastic materials in a substantive way. The impact of tax and finance policy could be used to incentivize and lower risks for these investments by creating more predictable and consistent demand and commodity delivery costs at sustainable price points. â¢ Policy mandates for recycled content in products need to be paired with policies that support collection and processing infrastructure for plastics waste. BOX 5-3 America Recycles Pledge In relation to an increased focus on advancing recycling in the United States motivated in part by changes in international polices affecting global trade in recyclables, in 2018, USEPA held an America Recycles Day Summit and invited U.S.-based organizations to sign an âAmerica Recycles Pledge.â The pledge is intended to document the commitment of the signers to participate in ongoing dialogues and to take action with other pledge signers to improve the U.S. re- cycling system (USEPA 2021b). As of July 2021, 380 organizations have signed the pledge. Some of these organizations were among those participating in the collaborative process to develop the 2021 National Recycling Strategy (USEPA 2021a). The Pledge âMy organization pledges to work together with EPA and the other America Recycles Pledge signatories to build on our existing efforts to address the chal- lenges facing our nationâs recycling system and to identify solutions that create a more resilient materials economy and protect the environment. My submission of this form indicates the interest and willingness of my organization to participate in an ongoing dialogue to identify specific actions that we can take collectively with EPA and the other signatories, and within our respective organization, to improve the nationâs recycling system.â
98 RECYCLED PLASTICS IN INFRASTRUCTURE â¢ The plastics collection, processing, and reuse/remanufacturing sys- tem in the United States has bottlenecks and components that are not functional, and market drivers do not exist to fix these prob- lems. Policies are needed that provide a mechanism to consider the system holistically, assess inefficiencies, and address market failures. â¢ There are many noninfrastructure uses for PET, HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE and much competition for plastics waste streams of these materials. Evaluation of the highest and best uses of these materi- als is of most importance for policies aimed to foster societal and environmental benefits. â¢ Defining clear waste management goals (e.g., fuel recovery from plastics waste versus mechanical recycling, reducing plastic use versus recycling, exporting plastics waste versus U.S.-based man- agement, reuse versus recycling, closed- versus open-loop recy- cling, mandates versus voluntary minimum post-consumer recycled content) a priori is imperative to the development of policies and strategies to achieve those goals. â¢ There are significant data gaps that need to be addressed to provide a deeper understanding of the plastics waste collection, processing, and reuse/recycling ecosystem in the United States. Policies are needed that will ensure continuous data collection for continuous improvement of the system. â¢ In the United States, there is a lack of incentives, policy, and speci- fications for plastics waste, its collection and processing supply chain, and its eventual use in infrastructure. â¢ The collection of consistent data and use of modeling that consid- ers spatial and temporal impacts are fundamental to evaluate the success of proposed and existing plastics recycling policies. Life- cycle assessment is, in particular, a valuable tool to examine how policies impact the economy, society, and the environment. â¢ Unintended consequences of policy, such as increased environ- mental impacts due to processing and transportation of materials, or competition among industries for limited supply of recycled material resulting in price escalation, need to be anticipated and minimized. REFERENCES Bravo, E. 2021. The German Recycling System: The Worldâs Best Recycling Country. Tomor- row City. https://tomorrow.city/a/german-recycling-system
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