Governor Wolf Paves the Way for New Plastics Recycling and Manufacturing in Pennsylvania

Environmental Alert

(by Matt Wood and Colleen Grace Donofrio)

On November 25, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf signed ACT 127 of 2020 (House Bill 1808), which, when effective on January 24, 2021, will amend Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) to support advanced plastics recycling operations in the Commonwealth by exempting qualifying operations from the waste management requirements.  ACT 127 accomplishes this by amending the SWMA to exempt the conversion of plastics at facilities with advanced recycling processes from the waste “processing” and “treatment” requirements under the SWMA and its implementing regulations.  These facilities turn hard-to-recycle plastics (e.g., plastic bags, wrappers, PVC 3, LDPE 4, PP 5, PS 6, Other 7) into useable raw materials and products.

Specifically, ACT 127 amends the SWMA to define:

  • “Post-use polymers” – post-use plastics from residential, municipal, or commercial sources that would not otherwise be recycled and, when converted using advanced recycling, are not considered waste.
  • “Advanced recycling” –  a manufacturing process whereby post-use polymers are converted into basic hydrocarbon raw materials, feedstocks, chemicals, liquid fuels, waxes, lubricants, and other related products.  Conversion processes include, but are not limited to, pyrolysis, gasification, depolymerization, catalytic cracking, reforming, and hydrogenation.
  • “Advanced recycling facility” – receives, separates, stores, and converts post-use polymers into raw materials and products.

Facilities coming under the exclusion are not regulated as waste “processing” or “treatment” facilities but still need to comply with all other applicable environmental requirements (e.g., air, water).  Facilities that only perform a portion of these services (e.g., segregation facilities) do not qualify for the exemption from the waste requirements.

ACT 127 is likely to attract new advanced recycling businesses to Pennsylvania and thereby foster job creation, drive investment and innovation, and create regulatory certainty, with the added benefit of recycling more plastics.  Conversely, many of the products developed from the conversion process are fossil fuels that may contribute to climate change.

Babst Calland is tracking the SWMA amendments and can assist you in evaluating how these changes may affect your operations and/or plans for development.  If you have questions about ACT 127 or any other waste-related matters, please contact Matthew C. Wood in the Pittsburgh office at 412.394.6583 or mwood@babstcalland.com or Colleen Grace Donofrio in the New Jersey office at 856.256.2495 or cdonofrio@babstcalland.com.

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