Chemical recycling — an umbrella term used to describe processes that break plastic waste down into molecular building blocks with high heat or chemicals and convert them into new products — will not help reduce plastic pollution, but rather exacerbate environmental problems, according to a new report by nonprofit environmental advocacy groups Beyond Plastics and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).
The report comes just weeks before the United Nations Environment Programme meetingslated to take place in Nairobi in mid-November, where officials from countries worldwide will convene for a third round of negotiations to develop an international legally binding treaty to curb plastic pollution.
“This is the perfect report for delegates to read on the plane,” Judith Enck, president of the anti-plastics advocacy group Beyond Plastics that co-developed the report, told Environmental Health News (EHN). “Currently, the draft of the treaty does not allow for chemical recycling, but we know that the plastics and chemical industry is working hard to change that.”
To investigate the impacts of chemical recycling, the IPEN and Beyond Plastics report analyzed peer-reviewed literature as well as publicly available data on the 11 existing chemical recycling plants in the U.S., Lee Bell, mercury and persistent organic pollutants policy advisor at IPEN who is also the author of the new report, told EHN.
“Researchers worldwide have all agreed that the amount of data released by the chemical recycling industry is insufficient to determine its full impacts,” Bell said.” But what we have been able to deduce from the information that is available is that there are some very, very hazardous impacts associated with the processes.”
“It has been sold and hyped as a solution to the plastic pollution problem,” said Bell. “Unfortunately, chemical recycling does not play any significant role in addressing the plastic pollution issue.”
Read the full story in Environmental Health News.