Texas Legislature passed a bill that would support a fledgling industry that aims to reduce waste by returning plastic back to its original chemical components.
When that happens, it can then be reused for fuels and feedstocks for new plastic products.
The bill, supported by Chevron Phillips Chemical of the Woodlands and the Texas oil major Exxon Mobil, is a response to the growing outcry over plastic waste choking the world’s oceans, contaminating soil and threatening marine and wild life. Chemical recycling is not only viewed by chemical makers as a way to reduce plastic pollution, but also as a new and potentially $10 billion industry.
Chemical recycling uses chemical processes to convert plastic waste into fuels to use in cars or manufacturing feedstocks that can be turned into new plastics. Although chemical recycling itself isn’t new, more petrochemical companies are investing in improving the technology to make it work on a commercial scale.
The bill, which was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to be signed into law, would regulate chemical recycling operations as manufacturing plants, rather than solid waste disposal sites, a designation that would spare chemical recyclers from regulations imposed on solid waste sites. The plants would still have to comply with state and federal air, water and other environmental laws.
The regulatory certainty provided by the legislation would make it easier for companies to invest in and obtain financing for chemical recycling agreements, said Craig Cookson, senior director of recycling and recovery at American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry trade group.
The bill is part of a national push by the petrochemical industry to promote chemical recycling. Texas is the sixth state to pass such legislation — joining Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Iowa and Tennessee, and similar bills are proposed in Rhode Island, South Carolina and Illinois.
Cookson said the significance of the legislation is especially big in Texas, which as the nation’s largest chemical manufacturing industry. Converting just 25 percent of the state’s plastic waste into manufacturing feedstocks and transportation fuels could support 40 chemical recycling plants and generate $501 million in economic output annually, ACC estimates.