Legislation to classify chemical recycling as manufacturing rather than solid waste management is on its way to the governor despite early resistance from the House of Delegates. The hotly contested bill, which supporters say will encourage the repurposing of plastic waste while creating jobs and opponents say will allow the fledgling industry to sidestep regulation, passed the House Monday on a 90-8 vote.
Key to its success was a move by lawmakers to yoke the advanced recycling bill to a proposal from Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, that would ban all food vendors from using plastic foam food containers starting in 2025. Carr’s polystyrene ban had successfully passed the House but was facing opposition in the Senate, where legislators worried it would further burden restaurant owners already struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the advanced recycling bill, from Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, had passed the Senate but faced a skeptical House committee that had already killed a companion bill.
Negotiations among lawmakers led to what Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, called the “Great Polystyrene Compromise of 2021.” “To the extent that we get this bill off the floor and pass it,” Petersen said during a debate on the plastic foam ban, “I think it’s important that there will be a reciprocal understanding on the other side of the hall that recycling also needs to be respected and the recycling industry needs to be respected.”