All Talk and No Recycling: An Investigation of the U.S. “Chemical Recycling” Industry
Amid overwhelming plastic pollution and an exponential rise in plastic production, the fossil fuel industry has touted chemical or “advanced” recycling as a solution to the plastic crisis. However, a new report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) reveals that what industry in the U.S. calls “advanced recycling” is largely the opposite— turning plastic into fuel to be burned. This network of waste and burn facilities overburden low-income communities and communities of color. The report finds other fatal inconsistencies in how the industry markets “chemical recycling” versus the reality: millions of dollars have been invested in “chemical recycling” projects, yet based on public information, out of the 37 facilities proposed in the U.S. since 2000, only 3 are currently operational and none have been proven to successfully recover plastic to make new plastics on a commercial scale. Given the scale and urgency of the problem, the report concludes that we don’t have any more time to waste on greenwashing tech-fixes like “chemical recycling.” Cities and states must focus on what actually works: reducing the amount of plastic produced and transitioning to zero waste systems.