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Plastics recycling from residue cleared by EPA

Keywords: Tags  shredder residue, plastics recycling, EPA, ISRI, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Robin Wiener, Sean Davidson

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published its final interpretation of regulations that would allow the recycling of plastics recovered from scrap metal shredder residue.

The interpretation generally allows the recycling of such plastics under certain conditions specified in a voluntary procedural guide. The conditions rely principally on regulatory provisions for excluded polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) products.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, previously estimated that the move could trigger around $1 billion in equipment spending and $250 million in construction, generating 20,000 new jobs and $1.1 billion in gross earnings.

The EPA called for comments on its proposal to open shredder residue to the recovery of some plastics after it was approached by ISRI (, Jan. 11). Some environmental groups challenged the interpretation (, Jan. 24), but after review the EPA has decided to adopt its proposed interpretation.

ISRI is pleased that the EPA issued "clarification that the existing PCB regulations allow for the separation, recycling, distribution in commerce and reuse of plastics recycled from shredder aggregate from the recycling of automobiles and appliances," association president Robin Wiener told AMM.

"We are very grateful for the agency’s recognition of the importance of clarifying its regulations to create certainty for business and to enable much more recycling. The technologies for separating and recycling the plastics are already being employed in Europe and Asia, and the agency’s action will now allow similar investments to be made here in the U.S. instead of overseas," she said.

The recycling community will achieve several environmental and economic benefits by recycling the plastics, including an annual savings of almost 30 million barrels of oil, reduction of up to 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and more than 50 million cubic yards of landfill space not used, Wiener said.

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