US EPA may Regulate Chemical Recycling

27.09.2021 - The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is said to be considering regulating the increasingly popular practice of chemical recycling. In a notice published in the Federal Register, the environmental watchdog that turned into the opposite during the Trump administration said it wants companies to provide more information on pyrolysis and gasification, with an eye to regulating these processes under the federal Clean Air Act.

Saying it believes there is “considerable confusion in the regulated community” regarding the applicability of Clean Air Act’s section 129 to pyrolysis and gasification units, the EPA said it is preparing a "detailed questionnaire" to get information from dozens of pilot- and large-scale pyrolysis and gasification units. This would include construction date, start-up date, air emissions, pollution control equipment and project design.

A cut-off date for comments on the questions has been set for Nov. 8.

The American Chemistry Council has been pushing US lawmakers to pass legislation that would incentivize technologies such as pyrolysis, and according to Reuters, 14 US states so far have already passed recycling laws that would exempt chemical recycling facilities from solid waste and recycling laws.

In Europe, many chemical companies – driven to a major extent by the European Commission’s rules limiting the landfilling of all municipal solid waste to 10% after 2035 –as well as Asia’s closing its doors to foreign waste – are also working with specialized downstream partners to gain access to recycling technologies.

Finnish refinery owner Neste, one of the most active in the technology space, is collaborating with several big chemical industry names, including DSM and LyondellBasell, on developing chemical recycling processes. BASF is working with several partners on generating pyrolysis gas to use as feedstock in its production. Petrochemical and plastics producers such as OMV/Borealis or Ineos Styrolution are also developing their own chemical recycling processes.

Outside Europe, BASF is collaborating with Mitsui in Japan to evaluate various options to commercialize chemical recycling. In the Middle East, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in moving toward a circular economy, are embracing advanced recycling technology. Both SABIC and Petronas are collaborating with UK recycling think-tank Plastic Energy. In the US, Eastman is an active player.

Despite the large number of projects, Reuters said, without giving details, that in an investigation earlier this year it examined 30 waste plastics-to-chemical feedstock projects across three continents and found many to be underutilized. Most were still operating on a small scale or had closed down, while others were far behind targets for reaching commercial scale, the news agency said.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist