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New Jersey Stops Pro Chemical Recycling Legislation

Surfrider Foundation’s two New Jersey Chapters are celebrating the demise of Assembly Bill 1759, a pro “chemical recycling” bill, in the New Jersey legislature!

Bill A1759 seeked to exempt a particular kind of plastics burning from New Jersey waste management regulations, which would have reduced environmental safeguards in our state and promoted the burning of used consumer plastic products. 

The Jersey Shore and South Jersey Surfrider Chapters and Surfrider staff: worked to get members of the public to contact their elected officials about this bill; signed onto letters to elected official leadership denouncing the bill; and worked closely with a coalition of New Jersey environmental organizations. 

Most people are now aware of the plastic pollution crisis, where plastic particles have been found in water, air, soil, and now human bodies. However, false solutions like “advanced or chemical recycling” simply exchange landfills for air pollution, incentivize petrochemical expansion, and create more plastic waste. 

The plastics industry calls this particular type of plastics burning “chemical” or “advanced” recycling, umbrella terms used to greenwash old incineration technologies, namely pyrolysis and gasification. Much of what the industry refers to as “advanced recycling” are actually plastic-to-fuel operations. These facilities heat plastic waste in order to create low-quality diesel fuels or synthetic gas (syngas), which is then burned onsite or shipped off to be burned elsewhere. 

These facilities are often located in underserved and BIPOC communities,placing additional health and safety risks on those residents. In 2018, a polystyrene pyrolysis plant in Oregon that purports to create virgin-like styrene and is widely touted as the paragon of “advanced recycling”, sent nearly 500,000 lbs of hazardous waste to be burned in cement kilns across the country, polluting the air in those communities. For more information check out this blog post.

While this is a victory worth celebrating, the plastics industry has been pushing this type of bill all across the country through their many lobbyists, so this bill could reappear in New Jersey. The only way to permanently keep “chemical recycling” facilities out of New Jersey is to ban them, and Surfrider will continue to work towards that goal. See our campaign victory here.