The U.S. Plastics Pact recently released a list of eleven items that are not reusable, recyclable, or compostable, all of which pose a problem for the waste industry. The “Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List” was developed by the U.S. Plastics Pact, an organization made up of more than 100 businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations who hope to develop circular alternatives and eliminate the listed items by 2025. The North Carolina-based organization released the list in late January, but has since received backlash concerning the list’s validity.
Plastics Pact executive director, Emily Tipaldo, stated that, “The elimination of these problematic and unnecessary materials will enable advancements in circular package design, increase opportunities for recovery and enhance the quality of recycled content available for manufacturers.” Among the critics is the American Chemistry Council (ACC), who feels the list lacks a transparent third-party, data-driven and scientific approach, and believes the list will result in the opposite of its intended purpose.
Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics for the ACC, stated “The list of plastic materials the Pact suggests to be eliminated by 2025 will only hinder the acceleration of a circular economy, slow progress toward a lower-carbon future and reduce our ability to use greater amounts of recycled material in plastic packaging.” The Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List includes Polystyrene but according to the ACC, due to the recent advancements in recycling technology, Polystyrene has become one of the most recyclable plastics, is easily storable, and can be recycled by itself or as feedstock for advanced recycling. In addition, the ACC says the infrastructure needed to more widely recycle Polystyrene products is rapidly expanding.
Despite the Pact’s good intentions, Baca believes the list’s recommendations will increase food waste and promote several materials with a higher carbon footprint, and is not alone in his concerns. The Plastics Industry Association weighed in with concerns that the Pact is restricting businesses’ packaging choices. The list includes materials that meet one or more of several concerns including hazardous chemicals, conditions and health risks to humans and the environment.
The U.S. Plastics Pact of Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List applies exclusively to plastic packaging, not including medical plastics used in clinical, hospital, and related laboratories and research settings.