Plastics to Pollution is Bad for Maryland

The chemical industry is pushing a new dirty energy in Maryland: converting plastic waste into fossil fuels.

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Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.

The chemical industry is pushing a new dirty energy in Maryland: converting plastic waste into fossil fuels.

This summer our advocates started to hear the industry talking up a "new solution" to our plastic crisis. The chemical industry’s slickly branded “advanced recycling” or “chemical recycling” is pretty simple: stripping plastic back to it’s petrochemical base and then burning it like any fossil fuel. It’s bad for the environment and public health and antithetical to our goals of stopping global warming and moving towards zero-waste.

We are facing a waste crisis, and plastic pollution is playing a huge role. That's why we support reducing single use plastic all together. Creating a new form of dirty energy should be a non-starter for Marylanders.

The chemical industry has launched a national effort to convince politicians to reclassify recycling so that companies could take single-use plastics and turn them into fuels to be burned -- just like dirty fossil fuels -- but still be classified as “recycling” facilities. They’re also creating new, permanent infrastructure to convert this plastic waste into fuel.

Generating dirty energy from plastic waste is uneconomical at best, and at worst will create a demand for a never ending supply of “fuel.” It’s no solution to our growing plastic crisis. In fact, these processes may actually increase overall pollution, since they include an additional, energy-intensive step in the process to turn the plastics into fossil fuels before you even get to the stage of burning them.

The industries that profit off of the plastic pollution crisis will not be the ones to fix it. In reality, the industry has known since the 1970’s that recycling would never work, despite spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that recycling would be able to manage our plastic waste with no problem

Maryland PIRG has worked with legislators across the state to ban single use plastics from bags to foam food packaging, and the plastics industry is on the ropes trying to maintain their market. Our best chance to prevent the conversion of plastic waste into fossil fuel pollution is to stop it before it starts. That's why we're supporting Del. Sara Love's bill (HB21) to stop this infrastructure from taking hold in Maryland. We've joined a dozen environmental groups backing this smart legislation.

Tell Gov. Hogan: Don't turn plastic pollution into fossil fuels

The chemical industry is pushing a new dirty energy in Maryland and across the country: converting plastic waste into fossil fuels. 

Emily Scarr
Maryland PIRG State Director

Author: Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG State Director

(410) 467-9389

Started on staff: 2005
B.A., Vassar College

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Recently, Emily helped win small donor public financing in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City; the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban flame retardants in children's products, furniture and mattresses; and, the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms. Emily serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, and the Maryland Tobacco Free Kids Coalition. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the Maryland Pesticide Action Network and Marylanders for Open Government. Emily lives in Baltimore with her husband, children, and dog.