Summary

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.


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