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EPA challenged on residue recycling

Keywords: Tags  EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, residue, ISRI, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Robin Wiener, PCBs, Earthjustice environmental groups

NEW YORK — Eight environmental groups have joined forces to challenge a proposed action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would allow owners of scrap metal shredders to recycle some plastics recovered from shredder residue.

San Francisco-based environmental law group Earthjustice has filed objections to the proposal on behalf of the eight groups. They include California-based groups the Sierra Club, the Coalition for a Safe Environment, the Ecology Center, the Del Amo Action Committee, California Communities Against Toxics and California Safe Schools; along with Houston-based Air Alliance Houston and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Falls Church, Va.

The EPA has proposed an interpretation of Toxic Substances Control Act regulations that would allow the recycling of plastics separated from automobile shredder residue (, Jan. 11). The agency’s interpretation is based on regulatory provisions for excluded polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) products and voluntary procedures suggested by the Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

The EPA’s proposed regulatory interpretation and the voluntary procedures "fall far short of demonstrating protection of human health and the environment," Earthjustice said.

"Auto shredder residue is a source of PCBs, which cause endocrine, immune, reproductive and nervous system problems, as well as cancer. PCBs do not readily break down and can travel long distances by air or water," it said. "The presence of PCBs in auto shredder residue has been well documented in historical data."

The EPA’s proposed plan "fail(s) to ensure that such recycling does not present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act," the group added.

Earthjustice called for more details from ISRI’s voluntary procedures and asked the EPA to determine how the regulatory exclusion for PCBs resulting from an "excluded manufacturing process" would apply to plastics recycling from auto shredder residue.

"It is not clear how the voluntary procedures address these requirements," Earthjustice said. "Further, it is not clear why the ‘recycling’ of plastic from auto shredder residue, which presumably will be treated, molded or reconstituted into other products, would not constitute ‘manufacturing’ subject to (other legal) requirements."

Earthjustice claims that the voluntary procedures lack critical safeguards and detailed 11 areas in which they allegedly fall short, adding that they fail to require "anything more than a visual inspection" of feedstock before acceptance, relevant certification, testing, attestation, labeling and any sampling or analysis.

"ISRI is very pleased overall with the responses that were provided to EPA on their proposed interpretation regarding the recycling of plastics from shredder aggregate, which were overwhelmingly supportive, and encouraged the agency move forward as expeditiously as possible," ISRI president Robin Wiener said, noting the trade group wouldn’t comment on the specifics at the moment.

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