In the tumultuous realm of environmental policy, where the winds of change can blow in many unpredictable directions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has emerged as a ray of hope.
Recently, the EPA reversed a Trump-era directive that eased clean-air regulations on pyrolysis and gasification, two chemical recycling processes for plastics.
This commendable decision, announced on May 24, demonstrates a much-needed renewed EPA commitment to safeguarding our planet and fostering a sustainable future.
A Looming Crisis
Plastic waste, a crisis of epic proportions, has escalated to alarming levels in the past two decades.
Astonishingly, the world now produces twice as much plastic waste as it did 20 years ago. The waste finds its way into landfills, incinerators, and into our delicate environment. Europe’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns us that annual plastic production is projected to triple by 2060. Industrialized nations like ours are contributing significantly more per person than our developing world counterparts.
This demands urgent action and a commitment to address this global plastics crisis.
In the face of this mounting challenge, the chemical industry has pushed a concept known as “advanced recycling.” Some argue that processes like pyrolysis and gasification offer a solution for recycling plastics that are otherwise difficult to recycle.
By converting plastic waste into synthetic gases, char residue, and usable oil, these technologies hold the promise of transforming plastic waste into valuable resources.
The chemical industry has forcefully lobbied state legislatures across the United States, advocating for laws that incentivize the development of a chemical recycling industry. However, while the industry touts the purported environmental benefits of chemical recycling, government scientists have raised concerns about its actual impact on the environment.
The EPA Makes a Stand
During the Trump administration, the EPA proposed a rule change to exempt pyrolysis and gasification from certain emission requirements, treating them separately from incineration. This move, however, was met with fierce opposition from environmentalists and Democrats who argued that pyrolysis and gasification do involve combustion.
Lawmakers and a chorus of concerned citizens implored the EPA to reconsider its stance. They highlighted the release of harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases resulting from these processes, emphasizing that they exacerbate our climate crisis and disproportionately impact vulnerable communities.
Their collective voice resonated, and the EPA, heeding the call for stronger environmental protections, reversed its ill-conceived proposal, demonstrating the agency’s steadfast commitment to public health and their determination to prevent any regulatory gaps.
A Temporary Halt, a Promising Future
While the EPA’s decision is undoubtedly cause for celebration, it is important to note that the agency has left the door open for further analysis and examination of pyrolysis and gasification. The complexity of these processes requires thorough scrutiny. This temporary halt allows the EPA to carefully evaluate the comments and science received, ensuring that any future regulations regarding pyrolysis and gasification are rooted in scientific rigor and prioritize public health.
The EPA’s resolute stand against relaxing clean-air regulations on chemical recycling processes aligns with the urgent need for climate action. Our planet is at a crossroads. Every decision we make, every policy we enact, must be guided by a deep understanding of the consequences for our environment.
Protecting public health is at the heart of the EPA’s mission. And by maintaining stringent regulations on pyrolysis and gasification, the agency upholds its commitment to safeguarding the well-being of communities across the United States.
Their decision to maintain robust clean-air regulations ensures that our air remains safe to breathe.
The EPA’s victory in opposing the chemical industry’s lobbying efforts presents an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our role in addressing the plastic waste crisis.
We must recognize that true solutions lie in reducing plastic consumption, promoting sustainable alternatives, and improving traditional recycling methods. It is essential that we collectively work toward a circular economy where waste is minimized.
Plastic waste has become an ever-growing menace, threatening our environment and the well-being of future generations. And the EPA’s reversal of the proposal to relax clean-air regulations on pyrolysis and gasification stands as a triumph for climate action and public health!
“We carry our fresh air with us, wherever we go. He who has it, has it anywhere – nothing can rob him of it.” – Walt Whitman
Let us not allow large industries to rob our fresh air.