Legal Alert

Pennsylvania 'Advanced Recycling' Bill Seeks to Keep Single-Use Plastics Out of Landfills

November 17, 2020


The Pennsylvania legislature is close to enacting House Bill 1808. Already approved by the Pennsylvania House, the measure could benefit an emerging industry known as Advanced Recycling that diverts single-use plastics—such as candy wrappers, chip bags, and shopping bags—from the waste stream by classifying the recycling of such materials as manufacturing instead of waste processing.

The Upshot

  • Supporters of the bill maintain that the change would encourage continued investment and innovation in advanced recycling technologies while preserving diminishing landfill space.
  • The bill would amend the Solid Waste Management Act to classify post-use plastics as raw materials for manufacturing instead of waste, following the utilization of advanced recycling technologies—a thermal decomposition process called “pyrolysis.” Pyrolysis is an attractive technology to some because it is a closed-loop alternative to incineration and does not create any air emissions.
  • The legislation would create new definitions for “Advanced Recycling” and “Advanced Recycling Facility” and would expressly exclude post-use polymers that are converted through advanced recycling from the definitions of municipal waste, solid waste, and residual waste.
  • Some environmental groups oppose the legislation, explaining that advanced recycling would not sufficiently curb plastic use. Opponents also argue that the primary products of existing advanced recycling facilities in the U.S. are plastic-derived fuels, which are fossil fuels, and that burning such fuels is not recycling and contributes to the climate crisis.
  • The bill passed the Pennsylvania House in July and now is moving through the Senate.

The Bottom Line

Facilities that would be affected by the legislation are often eligible for tax-exempt financing, and investments in these facilities can be included in green bond portfolios. None of that would change even if the Commonwealth revises its definition of waste. This bill would make it easier to access that money in Pennsylvania by removing some existing uncertainties about how these facilities and their products are classified under state environmental law.

Copyright © 2020 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author and publisher.

This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

Subscribe to Ballard Spahr Mailing Lists

Get the latest significant legal alerts, news, webinars, and insights that affect your industry.