‘Chemical Recycling’: a False Solution

  • Order Reprints
  • Print Article

To the Editor:
Thank you for the well-balanced cover story “Rethinking Plastic” (Feb. 17). According to the National Resources Defense Council, the plastics industry is promoting technologies that it misleadingly calls “chemical recycling” and touts as a solution to the plastic crisis. But it is a false solution. Chemical recycling consists of plastic-to-fuel and plastic-to-chemical processes, both of which are fraught with health, environmental, social, and economic concerns. Most chemical-recycling facilities in the U.S. don’t recycle any plastic, generate large quantities of hazardous waste, and release hazardous air pollutants. Facilities are often sited in communities that are disproportionately low-income, people of color, or both. Given these issues, chemical recycling cannot be the solution to our plastic problem—no matter how the plastics industry tries to spin it.

Policies are needed to reduce plastic production and waste, protect disadvantaged communities, and expose plastic-to-fuel processes as greenwashing. As stated in the article, taxes to offset the toll of plastics on the environment and human health, as well as “plastic credits,” could be part of the solution.