GET THE FACTS
Across the U.S. and especially in Ohio, companies are using the failure of plastics recycling nationwide as a marketing tool. These "advanced or chemical recycling"companies re-label pyrolysis and pose as the solution to the plastics and tire crisis.
On July 14, 2022, 35 Congress people and Senators warned the US EPA that these "advanced recycling" businesses being placed in "disadvantaged communities" are actually gasification
or pyrolysis plants and need regulated under Section 129 of the Clean Air Act as incineration. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) lobbyists have been trying to get them re-classified as manufacturing, and exempted from clean air regulations, in order to enable increased production of plastics as well as production of synthetic gas! On February 3, 2023, 48 Congress people and senators sent this letter to the US EPA telling them to address this plastic crisis in our communities.
WHAT HARMS CAN THE SOBE PLANT CREATE?
Plastics to fuels (PTF) might be better described as a plastic-to-hazardous waste operation. The only thing PTF recycles is toxic chemicals.
Plastic often contains toxic additives and contaminants that are known to be harmful to human health and are not effectively filtered out from the “chemical recycling” process or may form during the process, risking exposure to workers and communities near facilities.
Heavy metals cannot be destroyed during chemical processing and are therefore recombined into the final product or released in the waste byproducts. Heavy metal exposure is of greatest risk to workers in a facility. Even small amounts of lead exposure to children, directly or prenatally from exposed mothers can cause neurological damage leading to cognitive dysfunction, lower IQ, and behavioral issues.
Waste produced from “chemical recycling” requires appropriate disposal of ash, liquid effluent, and containment of air emissions; it threatens communities living near dump sites, incinerators, and cement kilns.
In particular, diesel and waxes produced from the process are more contaminated with solid residues, dioxins, and PAHs than regular diesel or an equivalent. Cleaning the toxins from end products is extremely difficult, expensive, and creates additional toxic waste streams.
Burning waste produced in the PTF process in cement kilns and hazardous waste incinerators transfers toxic pollution from communities where the PTF plant is built to other communities. Persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, heavy metals, and particulate matter are common pollutants emitted from cement kilns.
Cement kilns have lower reporting requirements for emissions than other burn facilities, such as coal plants and incinerators, and are often not required to notify nearby communities when emissions occur. Many of these facilities do not monitor for dioxins created by burning plastic like PVC. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and cause cancer.
Plastics and tires TO FUEL: A SHELL GAME
The United States has a plastic problem. Of all of the plastic produced since 1950, 91% have never been recycled. After being tossed into trash cans or wishfully into recycling bins, most plastic ends up in landfills or incinerators, here and overseas. The reality is that the amount of plastic produced in the United States cannot be reasonably recycled. In addition, many of the types of plastic that are produced cannot be recycled into useful new products.
As a result of increased public awareness of plastic pollution, the plastic and fossil fuel industries are facing increasing market constraints and widespread consumer backlash. These industries have faced increased pushback from consumers who are choosing reusable alternatives, China and other Asian countries rejecting plastic waste exports, and governments instituting bans on single-use plastic. But rather than taking responsibility for their plastic waste, these industries are pushing forward plans to produce additional billions of tons of plastic that reach beyond the planet’s ecological capacity and put the health of communities and workers at risk.
While the petrochemical industry has flooded the world with even more plastic, it has also maintained that the answer to the plastic pollution problem is not making less of it, but rather investing in downstream techno-fixes. One in particular has risen to buzzword status in the plastic scene: “chemical recycling.” It is a term often used by the petrochemical industry that conflates plastic-to-plastic and plastic-to-fuel technologies as a form of recycling.
Under the guise of “chemical” or “advanced” recycling, the industry is lobbying for and advancing development of plastic-to-fuel (PTF) facilities that will only make the plastic crisis worse while diverting public and private investment dollars away from real solutions.
Pyrolysis is the process of heating waste in the absence of oxygen to produce a liquid or gas fuel.
The process of converting plastic waste to fuel demands considerable energy, which is supplied by burning fossil fuels. Burning the resulting fuel releases additional greenhouse gas emissions.
From "Behind the Plastic Industry's Latest Recycling Push." by Jack Forrest 11/28/22:
"The EPA currently considers pyrolysis to be incineration, which puts some limits on how the facilities operate under Clean Air Act regulations. That means, for example, that pyrolysis facilities may have to submit contaminant inventories and abide by stronger caps on released pollutants."
Craig Cookson, American Chemistry Council’s senior director of plastics sustainability, said the organization is talking to lawmakers about federal legislation that would consider chemical recycling a mechanical process like other forms of recycling.
More than 200 organizations have urged lawmakers to not take up any legislation supporting chemical recycling, calling it a rebranded form of incineration (E&E News PM, Sept. 20). “If chemical manufacturers can operate pyrolysis and gasification facilities in compliance with Clean Air Act protections, as they claim, then why are they fighting to remove these federal health protections?" greens asked in a letter. "If they cannot meet these basic protections, the last thing Congress should do is exempt them from pollution control laws."
What is pyrolysis?
Why do they call This toxic process "Green?"
SOBE Energy Solutions has changed names, and rewritten their website, quite a few times now - and each time they do, they add more and more references to "clean" and "green" energy. We won't be fooled by this public relations stunt -- we know what sustainable energy is, what clean energy is, and what green futures look like - and SOBE's project is none of these.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a term used to describe a false, misleading or untrue action or set of claims made by an organization about the positive impact that a company, product or service has on the environment. “Chemical Recycling” or “Advanced Recycling” is NOT new, NOT innovative and NOT environmentally clean or just! It is a “greenwashing” term for pyrolysis which has been around for years.
Why this toxic mess, Here?
We know that SOBE Energy Solutions choice to put a dangerous, toxic recycling plant in the heart of our downtown didn't happen on a whim. The choice to place such a plant in the middle of a densely populated area can only happen if the area is considered vulnerable. We believe this is a classic example of environmental racism.
On July 14, 2022 a Bicameral letter from Congressional Reps and Senators warned about these types of businesses being placed in in disadvantaged communities across the United States.
What is environmental racism?
Environmental racism is the geographic relationship between environmental degradation and low-income or minority communities. We know that environmental racism occurs in “sacrifice zones” where air pollution, food deserts, food swamps, and chemical toxicity are more prevalent and also where people of color are predominantly located.
Youngstown is a notoriously poor city and the area surrounding the site hosts a majority Black population, students, the county jail, and Black owned businesses. We already bear a disproportionately large burden of bad public health outcomes and other vectors of vulnerability without another polluter and possibly explosive business being near our loved ones.
(Graphic source "Recycling Lies: 'Chemical Recycling' of plastic is just greenwashing incineration," NRDC, February 2022 (PDF).
More info on the Process
"Recycling Lies: 'Chemical Recycling' of plastic is just greenwashing incineration," NRDC, February 2022 (PDF).
“Scrap Tires As Fuel And A New Idea To Make It Better” Tires-Easy, April 26, 2013.
“Dioxins, Furans and Dioxin-Like Polychlorinated Biphenyls Factsheet” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
“Dioxins and Furans” Canadian Government Health Services.
“Turning tires into gas for energy and new, valuable materials” (2013), Science Daily.
"Industry pressured EPA to scrap key Ohio air quality rule" Greenwire, 3/17/22
“Clearing the Air: US EPA Looks to Revamp Pyrolysis and Gasification Regulations” National Law Review, Vol. XI, No. 292, October 19, 2021