U.S. EPA weighs regulation of chemical recycling

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering regulating chemical recycling, a controversial technology that aims to convert mixed plastic waste into fuel or energy.

In its notice in the Federal Register earlier this month, the EPA said it wants more information about so-called pyrolysis and gasification, also known as advanced or chemical recycling, and is considering how they could be regulated under the federal Clean Air Act.

"The Agency believes that there is considerable confusion in the regulated community regarding the applicability of Clean Air Act section 129 to pyrolysis and gasification units," the Federal Register notice said.

Advanced recycling facilities aim to convert hard-to-recycle plastics, solid waste, biomass, tires and other forms of waste into fuels or energy using high heat and solvents, and has been promoted by the petrochemical and plastics industries as a way to deal with plastic waste.

A Reuters investigation earlier this year, however, found many of these facilities are not processing much waste. Reuters examined 30 projects by two-dozen advanced recycling companies across three continents and found that most still operate on a small scale or have closed down, and more than half are years behind schedule on previously announced commercial plans.

The American Chemistry Council has urged U.S. lawmakers to pass legislation that would incentivize advanced recycling, and 14 U.S. states have passed advanced recycling laws that would exempt chemical recycling facilities from solid waste and recycling laws.

The EPA said it is in the process of preparing a "detailed questionnaire" to get information from dozens of pilot and larger scale pyrolysis and gasification units, including construction date, startup date, air emissions, pollution control equipment and project design.

The comment period will end on Nov. 8.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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